How to Break Spaghetti in Half Like a Physicist

In 2005, scientists confirmed that dry spaghetti noodles never break cleanly in half. Instead they tend to split into three or more pieces. If you’ve ever cooked spaghetti you’re probably familiar with having little bits explode all over the kitchen. But it turns out that there is a way to break spaghetti cleanly in half. Famous physicist Richard Feynman once spent a night with a friend snapping pasta to figure out what was happening. He never solved it, but it inspired French researchers to try, which earned them a 2006 igNobel prize. The secret? Twist the noodles hard like you’re wringing out a washcloth. To understand why, they used a high speed camera that recorded the shattering pasta at a million frames per second. The twist prevented the two bent strands flexing back quite as forcefully as an untwisted strand, and the untwisting motion released some of the stored energy in the spaghetti, further reducing the likelihood of a second fracture.

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4 thoughts on “How to Break Spaghetti in Half Like a Physicist

  • Back in grad school, I had an Italian classmate who told me that breaking pasta in half before you put it in boiling water is an act tantamount to sacrilege. It’s okay if part of it sticks out of the water when you first put it in. In less than a minute the submerged part softens and bends and everything sinks into the water. And when the pasta is done (al dente of course!), you won’t be able to tell which end got into the water first.

    1. Exactly.

      Breaking spaghetti IS a sacrilege!!

      You cook them exactly like your italian friend told you. Damn, we italians are doing a lot of things wrong lately, but pasta is not one of them!! 😀


  • Somewhere, in this tale of twisted pasta, is the solution to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s space elevator, and the sparing of as yet unborn lives from future calamity.

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