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Why you can’t break spaghetti into only two pieces: the weird science behind everyone’s favourite pasta

Scientists have at last figured out how to break dry spaghetti into two pieces, and we’re wondering why did they bother in the first place?

by: Katy Rose | 20 Aug 2018
 

Images: iSource

The spaghetti challenge goes like this: 
Go to the cupboard in your kitchen. 
Grab one strand of dried spaghetti. 
Hold it at each end. Pull the ends together until the spaghetti finally breaks. 
Count the pieces. 

The pieces are almost always 3 or 4, and not the 2 that you might expect. You’re left with two medium pieces in each hand with splinters from the middle section flying all over the place.  Why is this? Ok, so there is a lot of science and physics in the next part (just show me the recipes).

Scientists and Nobel laureates have been scratching their heads for decades over this problem, studying and measuring and testing the dimensions of dried pasta. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) graduate, Ronald Heisser, decided to tackle the conundrum after cooking up a late night student meal of spaghetti. 

In 2005, the answer to the ‘why’ was discovered by French scientists Basile Audoly and S´ebastien Neukirch (you can read all the details here) but it was only recently that Heisser resolved the ‘how’. 

Heisser and his colleague, Vishal Patil created a device that gripped the spaghetti, and then twisted it almost 360 degrees. Twisting the spaghetti by hand is almost impossible, but using the device they were able to prove their hypothesis using high speed cameras and lots and lots of maths. 

Which brings us to the most important part of the story: don’t break your spaghetti. It’s long, luscious strands is what makes it such a delight to eat. If you want a smaller pasta, then maybe select a different shape. 

In the meantime, here are some recipes to enjoy at home. And while you’re waiting for the water to boil, maybe snap a few strands of spaghetti. Send us your #spaghettichallenge pics to Twitter and Facebook
Meatless spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti with chicken, mushroom and zucchini


Smokey spaghetti with bacon

Asian turmeric and ginger broth with homemade spaghetti 


ALSO READ: All of Food24's best pasta recipes!

Read more on: pasta  |  spaghetti  |  food news
 

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