For everyone who has ever broken dry spaghetti into a pot, it has been noticed that while you can easily do it, it quite often shatters in the middle, resulting in a multitude of smaller pieces. And if you are attempting to break a single piece of spaghetti in half and want two pieces, forget it, since the single piece will almost always break into at least three pieces.
But since scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have gotten involved, it seems that the mystery of how to break spaghetti into two pieces has been solved.
You would think that scientists have more pressing issues on their mind than how spaghetti breaks, but apparently this issue has been a long-standing one. According to Gizmodo, the physicist Richard Feynman, while normally famous for his work in quantum mechanics and particle physics, was also interested in the spaghetti issue.
Now, researchers at MIT have taken the issue on board and have devised a way in which to break dry spaghetti into two pieces rather than three or more. And, apparently, the secret is all in the way you twist it.
In the paper “Controlling Fracture Cascades Through Twisting And Quenching,” Ronald H. Heisser, Vishal P. Patil, Norbert Stoop, Emmanuel Villermaux, and Jorn Dunkel delved into this long-held mystery.
“The secret is that you have to twist it a fair amount,” Vishal Patil, a graduate student from MIT, told Gizmodo. “The energy from the fracture gets divided into the twist.”
According to Today, the scientists “carried out experiments with hundreds of spaghetti sticks, bending and twisting them with an apparatus they built specifically for the task.”
Yes, the MIT scientists actually built a machine specifically designed to bend and break dry spaghetti. And while the spaghetti-breaking machine did its job, the researchers recorded its actions as it “bent and twisted hundreds of spaghetti sticks.” As a result of this, they caught the “entire fragmentation process with a camera, at up to a million frames per second,” according to the paper released on the experiment.
So, after all this research, it was discovered that by bending a stick of spaghetti, it caused a catastrophic failure that caused waves of energy to be issued down the spaghetti piece, resulting in multiple fractures.
However, if a twist is involved along with the bending process, this catastrophic event is less likely to occur, which will result in the spaghetti breaking into two pieces rather than three or more.
“In the end, they found that by first twisting the spaghetti at almost 360 degrees, then slowly bringing the two [ends] together to bend it, the stick snapped exactly in two. The findings were consistent across two types of spaghetti: Barilla No. 5 and Barilla No. 7, which have slightly different diameters.”
According to Live Science, study co-author, Jorn Dunkel, who is also an associate professor of physical applied mathematics at MIT, released the following statement on the finding in the study.
“In any case, this has been a fun interdisciplinary project started and carried out by two brilliant and persistent students — who probably don’t want to see, break, or eat spaghetti for a while.”