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Posted on Thursday, September 08 - 2005

" Physicists have settled one of science's more perplexing enigmas by explaining why uncooked spaghetti breaks into more than two pieces when you bend it.French physicists Dr Basile Audoly and Dr Sébastien Neukirch from the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris publish their fi..."

What happens to pasta when you bend it too far? (Image: iStockphoto)

Physicists have settled one of science's more perplexing enigmas by explaining why uncooked spaghetti breaks into more than two pieces when you bend it.French physicists Dr Basile Audoly and Dr Sébastien Neukirch from the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris publish their findings in a recent issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.The physics behind how spaghetti breaks has long puzzled scientists who have wanted to work out why spaghetti fragments rather than breaks in two. The question has even dogged Nobel laureate and physicist Professor Richard Feynman, who is said tohave spent many fruitless hours in his kitchen trying to figure it out. The French researchers now say the answer is related to waves of vibration that pass through the pasta when dry spaghetti is bent and suddenly released at one end.Have a look at how dry spaghetti snaps here."Surprisingly, instead of smoothly relaxing to its straight configuration, the rod often breaks at an intermediate point in between the free end and the clamped end shortly after its release," the researchers report.They studied the dynamics of the fragmentation by taking high-speed images of strands of breaking spaghetti.They then applied the Kirchhoff equation, an equation that relates to how waves travel through an object that's put under stress.The researchers conclude that spaghettifragmentation is caused by a burst of flexural, or elastic, waves that travel along the spaghetti after the initial break.These waves then trigger a series of new breakages, which in turn spark more waves.Safe buildings and sweet spotsThey say the finding can be applied to the use of fibreglass and metal rods in civil engineering to make structures like buildings and bridges more stable."The physical process of fragmentation is relevant to many areas of science and technology," they write.Professor of physics at the University of Sydney, Rod Cross, says the principal of flexular waves also helps to explain the so-called 'sweet spot' in cricket and baseball bats."When you hit the ball if you hit it in the right spot you don't have any shockor vi.......


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