Physical Review Letter on Breaking Spaghetti Leads to 2006 Ig Noble Award

Oct 06, 2006

Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie earned the infamous 2006 Ig Noble prize for physics for their insights into why dry spaghetti often breaks into more than two pieces when it is bent. Fragmentation of Rods by Cascading Cracks: Why Spaghetti Does Not Break in Half was published in the American Physical Society journal Physical Review Letters in August of 2005.

Pasta-eaters and scientists alike have been puzzled by the physics of breaking spaghetti. Even Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman pondered the question. In order to solve the mystery Audoly and Neukirch experimented with several different thicknesses of dry spaghetti, which they clamped at one end, then bent and suddenly released, causing the strand to break.

According to their analysis, after release, the rod's curvature initially increases near the just-released end. Then a wave travels along the pasta. The first break occurs somewhere along the rod when the curvature exceeds a critical limit. The shock of the initial break then causes more bending waves to travel along the two newly formed pieces of the spaghetti, where they locally increase the curvature further and cause more breaks, leading to a cascade of cracks.

"I don't really follow kitchen science," says APS Public Outreach Specialist Kendra Rand, "but I'm sure it's great relief to kitchen physicists everywhere that Audoly and Neukirch have put this nagging issue to rest, and earned a prize for their efforts. Although, they might have preferred a nice thank you card or something."

While the subject may at first seem a bit frivolous for the pages of a prestigious journal such as Physical Review Letters, it provides important information about the failure of any long, brittle structure. Bridge spans, buildings, vehicle parts, and human bones may fracture into multiple segments under some circumstances. Thanks to a study of pasta, Audoly and Neukirch have given us added understanding about why things break the way they do.

Source: American Physical Society

Explore further: Finding faster-than-light particles by weighing them

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Today's annoyances, tomorrow's technology

Aug 04, 2014

Paper wrinkles, tape tears, cables kink, columns buckle, eggshells break. Pedro M. Reis hopes to transform today's annoyances into tomorrow's technology.

"Kissing genes" breakthrough

Nov 14, 2013

In a ground-breaking discovery that will have a major impact on our understanding of the function of DNA, our genetic blueprint, a group of scientists from Wits and the Council for Scientific and Industrial ...

Recommended for you

Finding faster-than-light particles by weighing them

Dec 26, 2014

In a new paper accepted by the journal Astroparticle Physics, Robert Ehrlich, a recently retired physicist from George Mason University, claims that the neutrino is very likely a tachyon or faster-than-light par ...

Controlling core switching in Pac-man disks

Dec 24, 2014

Magnetic vortices in thin films can encode information in the perpendicular magnetization pointing up or down relative to the vortex core. These binary states could be useful for non-volatile data storage ...

Atoms queue up for quantum computer networks

Dec 24, 2014

In order to develop future quantum computer networks, it is necessary to hold a known number of atoms and read them without them disappearing. To do this, researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute have developed ...

New video supports radiation dosimetry audits

Dec 23, 2014

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), working with the National Radiotherapy Trials Quality Assurance Group, has produced a video guide to support physicists participating in radiation dosimetry audits.

Acoustic tweezers manipulate cell-to-cell contact

Dec 22, 2014

Sound waves can precisely position groups of cells for study without the danger of changing or damaging the cells, according to a team of Penn State researchers who are using surface acoustic waves to manipulate ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.