Scientists Have Figured Out How To Break Spaghetti Into Two Pieces

Posted: Aug 17 2018, 1:39pm CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Scientists have Figured Out How to Break Spaghetti into Two Pieces
Credit: MIT

MIT researchers have solved a longstanding spaghetti mystery.

If you don’t make spaghetti at home, you may not have noticed that it is almost impossible to break a dry spaghetti noodle into just two pieces. When you try to snap a strand of spaghetti in half, it almost always ends up with three or more pieces.

The phenomenon has puzzled scientists for decades, but they always looked for a theoretical explanation for why the spaghetti noddle refuses to snap in two. In 2006, physicists from France pieced together a theory to describe the forces at work when spaghetti is bent. They explained that when a strand of spaghetti is bent using even force from both ends, it will break near the center, where it is most curved. This break triggers a "snap-back" effect and a bending wave or vibration that leads to more fractures in the stick. Now, a pair of researchers has gone one step further by breaking spaghetti into exactly two pieces.

Ronald Heisser from Cornell University and Vishal Patil from MIT carried out experiments on hundreds of spaghetti sticks and bend and twisted them in many ways with specifically designed apparatus. They found that if a stick is twisted at a certain critical degree, then slowly bent in half, it will break perfectly in two.

They recorded the entire fragmentation process with a camera at up to a million frames per second and showed the spaghetti will snap exactly in two if it is twisted at almost 360 degrees before slowly bringing the two clamps together to bend it.

“They did some manual tests, tried various things, and came up with an idea when he twisted the spaghetti really hard and brought the ends together, it seemed to work and it broke into two pieces. But you have to twist really strongly.” Study co-author Jörn Dunkel and professor of physical applied mathematics at MIT said.

Researchers also explained the physics of the new method. Their method builds on the original theory of snap-back effect but they added the element of twist in it. They reveal that snap-back effect, in which a wave caused by stick’s initial break creates additional fractures, is weakened in the presence of twist and prevents additional fractures.

Researchers suggest that their experiments and theoretical results could improve the general understanding of the crack formation and how to control fractures in other rod-like materials.

"It will be interesting to see whether and how twist could similarly be used to control the fracture dynamics of two-dimensional and three-dimensional materials," says Dunkel. “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."

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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