Breaking spaghetti noodles in half should be a fairly simple feat. Yet no matter how hard you try, that clean break is almost never achievable. Small pieces of dry pasta scatter onto your kitchen floor or under your stove.
But don’t feel bad if you could never figure out why your spaghetti shattered (or how to stop it). Not even Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman could figure it out when he studied spaghetti in the 1990s. Finally, in 2005, researchers Sebastien Neukirch and Basile Audoly discovered that when you bend a dry, thin noodle, a vibration wave is sent from the top of the curve throughout the rest of the noodle. This “snap-back” vibration results in pieces flying around your kitchen. Neukirch and Audoly won an Ig Nobel Prize, a parodied version of the real Nobel Prize, for their breakthrough (pun intended). Still, no one knew how to break pasta the correct way—until recently.
With the research from Neukirch and Audoly as precedent, two students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ronald Heisser and Edgar Gridello, spent over a month seeing if there was any way to avoid this effect, the Washington Post reports. Enlisting the help of another MIT graduate student, Vishal Patil, they found that unlike the “snap-back” wave, a “twist wave” causes a quicker vibration that stops parts of your spaghetti from going rogue. The twist wave occurs when you literally twist the dry noodle and then bend it.
However, twisting spaghetti in this manner requires a lot of power, so Heisser and Patil created a mechanical fracture device, aka the ultimate spaghetti breaker. The contraption twists dry spaghetti almost 360 degrees and bends it in half slowly. For those who don’t have access to this machine (essentially everyone except these MIT geniuses), try twisting and bending dry pasta by hand. You may finally have two rare, perfect halves of a noodle. Next, don’t miss these other ways you might be cooking pasta wrong.