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Why can't you break spaghetti in half?


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A couple of weeks ago, on Numb3rs, Charlie Epps explained to Don that you can't break a piece of spaghetti in half. In other words if you hold the two ends of a piece of dry spaghetti and you bend the piece, it will always break in at least two places and will never break in half. I tried this with about ten pieces of spaghetti and it proved correct, and there are reports online of trying it with thousands of pieces.

Here's an interesting article I found on this fascinating subject:

In interviews on French television 14 years ago, after receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics, popular physicist Pierre-Gilles de Gennes of the College of France in Paris repeatedly alluded to the spaghetti mystery as one of the very simple, yet unsolved, problems of science.

http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20051112/bob10.asp

Try it. I dare you.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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It's great to see scientists working on something useful for a change!

I've spent many fruitless minutes trying to break/cut uncooked lasagne noodles to length so they'll fit neatly in my pans. I even went to the trouble of calculating how much the noodles will expand while boiling. :wacko:

SB (should have been a scientist)

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I just went into my kitchen and tried this out. I had a small bunch of spaghetti in a box - not enough to to cook for one person, but that I had perversely saved nonetheless - just the thing for a pointless experiment! I broke four pieces in a row, and all of them broke perfectly in half. Did I do it wrong?

Maybe my kitchen is more humid than average - would that affect it?

edited for spalling

Edited by nakji (log)
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A couple of weeks ago, on Numb3rs, Charlie Epps explained to Don that you can't break a piece of spaghetti in half. In other words if you hold the two ends of a piece of dry spaghetti and you bend the piece, it will always break in at least two places and will never break in half. I tried this with about ten pieces of spaghetti and it proved correct, and there are reports online of trying it with thousands of pieces.

Here's an interesting article I found on this fascinating subject:

In interviews on French television 14 years ago, after receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics, popular physicist Pierre-Gilles de Gennes of the College of France in Paris repeatedly alluded to the spaghetti mystery as one of the very simple, yet unsolved, problems of science.

http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20051112/bob10.asp

Try it. I dare you.

Hmm, I always buy "thin spaghetti" and almost always break them in half before dropping into the pot of boiling water. I've never had a problem and never heard that one couldn't break them! I just tried again with a small handful, and it worked. Maybe because it's the thin spaghetti, or because I'm in the Seattle area. Ah, the mysteries of food life! :shock:

Cheers,

Edited by GourmetLight$ (log)

Carolyn

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

J.R.R. Tolkien

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You can't break a single piece in half, is the point. Not unless you're nakji, that is. Again, you have to try to break it by bending the two ends. Of course you can break it in half if you put your hands next to each other in the middle.

Edited by Ellen Shapiro (log)

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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....its not the being able to break it part....its that little bits also break off when you do break it. It will almost never just break into 2 pieces....always little bits flying away.

My grandmother always broke it before cooking too, I hate that, get a big enough pot already - its hard to twirl when its short :angry:

tracey

Edited by rooftop1000 (log)

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Indeed. I held each piece with my fingers at each end, and they snapped in half, cleanly. I even did one, not holding the ends, but just pressing in with my fingertips. Still worked. But then, this box has been open in my kitchen for about a week, and I'm in Hanoi. So the average humidity is somewhere around 160%. I feel this may have an affect.

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Hmm, I grew up in an Italian-American family, and breaking spaghetti was something you never did; I was taught (or maybe just intuited) that it was a superstition, and that it was bad luck to break spaghetti in half.

My mom just took a handful of spaghetti, with one hand near the top and one near the middle and twisted while pushing down to get something that looked like a bound sheaf of corn. She did this in over and in the pot, by the way, so the pasta softens and you can eventually squeeze the strands in without breaking any. Try it. It works. :wink:

My Irish-American dad used to cut his spaghetti with a knife and fork, which my mom overlooked out of love, but there was no question that, at least in the kitchen, no pasta was going to get snapped. :biggrin:

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Why on earth would you want to break spaghetti in half anyway?

Forgetting tradition, I generally grab a bunch and break them before boiling. Otherwise we'd look like sloppy teenagers in a Spaghetti house!

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Why on earth would you want to break spaghetti in half anyway?

Forgetting tradition, I generally grab a bunch and break them before boiling. Otherwise we'd look like sloppy teenagers in a Spaghetti house!

I think you would be lambasted by Italians everywhere if you broke with tradition, especially when it comes to cooking! :smile:

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  • 2 weeks later...

There are lots of regional variations on themes such as Piemontese lasagna with anchovies and Ligurian lasagna with pesto. Then there are the Italian-American takes on Bologna's lasagna, using dried ridged noodles instead of fresh sheets of egg pasta, ricotta instead of a white sauce, etc. that have been adopted from the Jersey shore all the way to San Diego. Tradizione schmadizione :biggrin:

Nonetheless, in Liguria there is a dish called Fidelanza in which dried sphagetti is cooked slowly in a vegetable-rich tomato sauce after adding a minimal amount of water. While recipes written in English do not call for the strands to be broken, Colman Andrews relates the dish to Catalan recipes that require short lengths of pasta to be browned first in oil before being added to a tomato-rich stock. I would be surprised if someone somewhere on the Riviera didn't have a pan wide enough to accommodate those long strands of dried spaghetti and thus, broke them in half.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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