Breaking Spaghetti

By Anupum Pant

If you hold a long piece of dry spaghetti from the ends and bend it till it breaks, something unusual happens. Almost always the strand breaks into three pieces. Sometimes even four, and more. Statistically, very rarely it breaks cleanly into two parts.

The answer to why this happens has troubled physicists for a long time. Still not much is known about this phenomenon. Richard feynman had his own theory explaining why this happens. Until now, it was believed that the vibrations from the first fracture cause the second fracture. But that doesn’t seem to be the mechanism if you see it at very high frame rates. Because the second fracture happens much before the vibrations from the first reach it. [Paper]

This work of spaghetti breaking also lead to the 20006 IG nobel Award.

Smarter everyday, a youtube channel, to find out how this happens, decided to delve deeper into this and did an experiment that has never been done by any one else. The host captured it in slow motion at quarter million frames per second.  Before this, people had gone upto 4000 frames per second. 4000 FPS doesn’t really give you a lot. But when the frame rated is kicked higher, the mechanism sort of starts becoming clearer.

Both fractures, if it braeks into three, takes place with a very small interval in between. And now, thanks to this extreme slow motion video, it is believed that the first fracture triggers the second fracture.

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