Scientists at MIT have just completed an excellent pasta parlor trick: They figured out how to snap pieces of spaghetti in two. The uninitiated can test the original problem for themselves: Go to the kitchen, pull out a piece of dry spaghetti, and try to break it into two pieces. As a post at MIT News explains, it's all but impossible: The pasta snaps into three more pieces, every single time. This phenomenon has previously been explained as a result of bending waves combined with a "snap-back" effect, but the MIT researchers investigated whether it's possible to overcome all that. The answer: Yes, but there's twisting involved. The trick is to twist each end of the piece hard, as in 270 degrees, and then bend it slowly.
"They did some manual tests, tried various things, and came up with an idea that when he twisted the spaghetti really hard and brought the ends together, it seemed to work and it broke into two pieces," says Jorn Dunkel, co-author of the study in PNAS. "But you have to twist really strongly." After those initial hand tests, the team built a spaghetti-snapping device that cemented the theory, per Newsweek. And they swear it has applications outside the kitchen, perhaps in preventing other rod-like materials from breaking in the real world. "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," says Dunkel. (The world's rarest pasta is made by just three women.)