In high school physics class we watched a video about Richard Feynman, and in one scene he talked about a problem that occurred to him while cooking dinner with a friend one evening. The problem: why do strands of dried spaghetti break into more than two pieces? He and his friend became utterly distracted from their dinner, instead spending the evening snapping spaghetti in half and trying to understand the process. They never solved the problem.
It was reported last week that the answer has been found. It turns out that the initial break in the spaghetti sends waves down the strand, and these waves increase the stress as they pass by, creating additional breaks.
Supposedly this is actually useful:
The team points out that the motivation for this research extends far beyond the kitchen. The brittle steel struts in skyscrapers, buildings and bridges can fragment by similar mechanisms, so this research can have practical implications in helping to make structures safer.
“The physical process of fragmentation is relevant to many areas of science and technology,” they declare.