Science

Pass the grated cheese: MIT researchers uncover major spaghetti findings

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They solved that pesky pasta puzzle.

Researchers at MIT have discovered a way to break uncooked spaghetti noodles in two. But you can stop smirking now. It’s a breakthrough that could have implications far beyond the kitchen, the school said Monday.

The researchers’ findings are being published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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As anyone who’s ever broken a bunch of spaghetti to fit in a pot knows, spaghetti doesn’t break in half when bent. It breaks into multiple pieces. And inquiring minds wanted to know why.

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The secret ingredient, it turned out, was twisting.

The spaghetti sleuths “found a way to break spaghetti in two, by both bending and twisting the dry noodles,” the release said. “They carried out experiments with hundreds of spaghetti sticks, bending and twisting them with an apparatus they built specifically for the task. The team found that if a stick is twisted past a certain critical degree, then slowly bent in half, it will, against all odds, break in two.”

The findings could be useful in other areas, the university said.

“The researchers say the results may have applications beyond culinary curiosities, such as enhancing the understanding of crack formation and how to control fractures in other rod-like materials such as multifiber structures, engineered nanotubes, or even microtubules in cells,” the statement said.

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Jörn Dunkel, associate professor of physical applied mathematics at MIT and a coauthor of the study, elaborated in the release provided by the school.

“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,” Dunkel said. “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.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.