People who have at least attempted to make a pasta dish know that it is impossible to snap a dry spaghetti into two pieces.
Without fault, the dry spaghetti sticks split into many pieces when people try to break it. This phenomenon has been the subject of curiosity for many years now.
It has even troubled renowned theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate, Richard Feynman. This drove MIT scientists to conduct experiments on how to finally do it.
Feynman, who is famous for his research on the atomic bomb, even spent time breaking spaghetti one evening. He tried to find out a theoretical explanation why it refused to break into just two pieces.
Findings Of The Study
For the study, Ronald Heisser, Vishal Patil, and other researchers snapped many spaghetti sticks to find out how to achieve a perfect two-piece break. Their findings were showcased online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America on Aug. 13.
"They did some manual tests, tried various things, and came up with an idea that when he twisted the spaghetti really hard and brought the ends together, it seemed to work and it broke into two pieces," said Jörn Dunke, associate professor of physical applied mathematics at MIT and co-author of the study.
"But you have to twist really strongly. And [Heisser] wanted to investigate more deeply."
Furthermore, the researchers built an apparatus that could snap spaghetti to cement their theory. They also promised that the device can be used for other purposes.
According to the study, when a dry pasta is twisted past its critical degree and then bent slowly, it will finally break into two perfect pieces. For a 10-inch long pasta stick to split perfectly, people would have to twist the strand in a 270-degree angle and bend it at the speed of 3 millimeters per second.
In 2005, researchers also explained why it is incredibly difficult to break the pasta into exactly two pieces. When a piece of thin rod-like spaghetti is bent, it breaks near its center.
The spot where it breaks is the most curved portion of the rod. Sebastien Neukirch and Basile Audoly found out that a wave of vibration, called a "snap-back" effect, travels to the stick. This triggers other portions to break as well.
Neukirch and Audoly's one-of-a-kind research was even recognized in the Ig Nobel Prize for Physics in 2006, an infamous parody of the famed Nobel prize.