Secret of Snapping Spaghetti in SLOW MOTION – Smarter Every Day 127

(Destin) Looks good to me. Nice. Hey it’s me Destin, welcome back to Smarter Every Day. So I’m gonna show you something today that’s fascinating. If you take a normal piece of dry spaghetti. you can do this in your home, and you bend it right up until the point it breaks, it doesn’t do what you think it should. It doesn’t break into two pieces, it breaks into three. It happens almost every time. You see that? That broke out of the middle. Today on Smarter Every Day we’re gonna wait till the kids finish their dinner and then we’re gonna break out the Phantom V1610 and record this at a quarter million frames per second. And we’re gonna unravel the secret of why spaghetti shatters the way it does. You’re getting Smarter Every Day. [music] If you haven’t already run to the kitchen do that now. Grab some spaghetti and goggle up, cause science is about to happen. One at a time, grab a noodle on both ends and bend it until it breaks. You’ll notice that the majority of the noodles break into more than two pieces. Now you might not think this is a big deal. But it’s a really big deal. You see it’s really easy to understand why bending a rod makes it break into two pieces. The bottom is in compression and the top is in tension. When the tension on the top exceeds the maximum allowable tensile stress, it rips it in half and you’re left with only two pieces of the rod left. So why is spaghetti different? Something else is happening here. The simple act of snapping spaghetti has stumped brilliant scientists for years, including Richard Feynman, who as you might know, was on the theoretical physics team during the Manhattan Project and also won a Nobel Prize for Physics in 1965. Everyone accepts that Richard Feynman was a genius so it’s no surprise that his theory about why spaghetti snaps into multiple pieces makes a lot of sense. If you tried it by now yourself, you know that when you snap it you feel this little vibration in your fingers. He thought that this vibration, if it was significant enough, could excite the remaining spaghetti sufficiently so that it would cause a secondary fracture on down the rod. To test this theory Feynman and a friend decided to snap spaghetti under water to dampen out this vibration. They were surprised to find out that when they snapped it under water it still seemed to break into multiple pieces. So here we are. If a smart dude like Richard Feynman can’t figure this out, what chance do we have? So we’re gonna figure this out in my kitchen. This is what we’re doing. My wife brought home all kinds of different pasta for me, at my request. I’ve got them taken out here and we’re running an experiment with this high speed camera, it’s a Phantom V1610. We have a lamp set up and we’re just gonna sit and break pasta and observe. I looked all over the internet and the fastest research imagery I could find was 4000 frames per second. So in order to further science, we’re gonna start out at at least 18,000 frames per second. Which surely should tell us something right? [slowed snap] Woah. That was fast. OK I couldn’t even tell which fracture happened first. We’ll zoom it back in and go frame by frame. [snap] Yeah it’s way too fast. Both fractures happen at what seems to be the same time. Let’s look at another piece that breaks up even more and see if it sheds some light into what’s going on here. [snap] What?! It’s like all the fracture points are happening at the exact same time which is crazy because we’re well below a millisecond time scale here. I’m not really sure what the researchers were seeing at 4000 frames per second, but I’m not seeing it. So let’s bump this thing up to 40,000 frames per second which is ten times faster than any research paper I’ve read. [snap] Hmm. OK so we’re starting to learn something. I can at least tell that the right side broke first. But both still seemed to be happening within 100 microseconds of each other, which is really really fast. Also, let’s start to watch the rotation direction of the broken pieces. Let’s watch another one and see if vibration has anything to do with that second fracture. [snap] No. In fact it appears that the longer rods aren’t even vibrating on the same time scale. Here’s something though. If you look, the smaller broken pieces when they start to rotate, always seem to rotate away from the first fracture. The back however appears to be breaking downwards. It’s almost as if the spaghetti is trying to straighten itself out but it can’t overcome its own mass. Buckle your seatbelt cause we’re going to a quarter million frames per second. [snap] Man, we had to go way faster than I thought we would to get this answer but there it is. I mean it’s not vibration. It’s the curvature of the spaghetti as it straightens out. Think about it this way. The entire spaghetti rod is under torque, right? Because of this torque, it bends in a curve. And when a break occurs, the side near the break is now free from torque. But there’s still this counter-torque built up in the rod. So it starts to straighten itself out from left to right, rotating up and straightening out along the way. Because the spaghetti on the left is already straightened out and the spaghetti on the right is still curved, the point where they meet is now even more curved, which causes the spaghetti to bend beyond the minimum failure radius. This results in a fracture. It’s like one side doesn’t get the message fast enough. If the whole rod were to release at one time it’d be fine, but it doesn’t. It breaks itself apart along the way. Every time you have a new break the process starts all over again. This physical phenomenon is called a cascading fracture. Until recently the math behind this phenomenon wasn’t very well understood. But I did find a really cool French research paper on the topic as well as a neat simulation created by some Norwegian petroleum engineers. To my knowledge though, the video that we just watched gives more insight into this physical phenomenon than anything else that’s ever been done. We just did it at a quarter of a million frames per second, which is amazing. So there you go. The secret of snapping spaghetti is not just a party trick. The next time you boil spaghetti, be careful because you are about to explore the very edge of scientific knowledge. So thank you very much for watching this episode of Smarter Every Day. If you would like to get a book that talks about all the things that Richard Feynman studied, I recommend an Audible book called Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman. I’m listening to it right now and it’s really good. If you would like to support Smarter Every Day go to and download Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman and you would support Smarter Every Day and I would greatly appreciate that. So thank you very much. I’m Destin, you’re getting Smarter Every Day, have a good one. (kid) Woo! (Destin) You ever heard of Richard Feynman? (Kids) No. No idea. – No idea? – I have no idea who he is but it sounds fine. – [laughs] Well he is. He’s a little different than daddy but he’s a pretty smart awesome dude. Three. At least four. I hope this video earned your subscription. If not, just enjoy this confused fish. Thanks.

100 thoughts on “Secret of Snapping Spaghetti in SLOW MOTION – Smarter Every Day 127”

  1. I know this didn't enrich my life in any meaningful way, but the knowledge learned is super appreciated. Also, a handful of spaghetti with a twisting motion will snap em without little bits if we are solving the practical.

    The morale of the story: don't trust pasta.

  2. 1950: "In the year 2000 there will be flying cars weaving through a multi tier sky highway"
    2019: "Spaghetti is the edge of science"

  3. OMG … Richard would have loved this .. " if you make the spaghetti less rigged by slight steaming it , then it should break in two pieces , since it the first failure on the long side , would have more give , and not create the second fracture . I think ??

  4. Nice video but… that meatballs spaghetti is everything but a proper way to prepare spaghetti! From Italy with admiration. (NB: meatballs spaghetti, spaghetti Bolognese and fettuccine Alfredo does not exists in Italy at all…). And by the way you sould not brake spagetti for cooking!

  5. The right side broke as it was the center point of the fracture, while the left side broke due to the recoil stress. The reason the broken chunk spins one way is because the stress on the other end was greater, and the instant the chunk was in zero G it began to spin in the direction the greater stress was applied.

  6. My thory
    When you split the pasta in half take the small one and press it slowly on the two ends you could fell a slight pain right? Thats because of the hardness on the pasta
    Answer: it is because of the hardness of the pasta

  7. I'm so happy you did this video!! I like to cook and I have to… and according your advice I observe the world differently. And this spagety-breaking-chaos really confused me a lot. The coolest project ever 😀
    Thank you Destin. Thank you 🙂 greetings from the Czech Republic.

  8. So…why does spaghetti break this way….and other things do not? Is it because of the fragile nature of how it’s constructed?

  9. i thought it was a life hack too not bave all even long noodles but you also have little mini noodles for your spaghetti meatballss lmao

  10. What a about a ruler cause every time I have snapped one it either snaps like spaghetti or snaps like a pencil 🤷‍♂️

  11. COOL but how would the pencil break if you could break it at the end points like a noodle does? Could it possible break into more than 2 parts?

  12. Its about material type. Same thing do with plastic or rubber it would not be breaking into 3 because they are flexible.

  13. Thousands of dollars camera

    Hundreds of dollars computer

    Aaaaand a five dollar T-SHIRT backdrop to film with

    …… SCIENCE!!!!!

  14. Nice video but bad conclusion. At 2283.241ms you can already see the second crack while the spaghetto is still curved. There must be a wave traveling faster than the straightening one. To me, it is a compression wave, as they actually travel faster.
    My theory is: The spaghetto doesn't break instantaneously along its section, but it first break at the upper side, where there is tension. As result of this collapse of the tension stress, a compression wave starts moving along the spaghetto until the combination with the pre-existing compression status in the lower side due to the bending causes a fragile rupture where the material is less resistant. This would cause a tension wave going back through the separated piece and overlapping the tension due to bending status and possibly causing a further rupture.

  15. Why would I waste 7 minutes of my life watching spaghetti snap when it only takes 30 seconds to write this comment?

  16. Go to INRS Universite De Recherche with some pasta noodles. They created a camera that records 10 trillion frames per second.

  17. Does the tension and compression fade as it goes through, (on both sides) causing it to, at some point, snap before reaching the middle to break into 2 pieces?

  18. my italian wife with 2 masters in physics just cringed 2 separate times .not for your science but the meatballs with spaghetti combo(very unitalian) and then at the end when you broke the spaghetti to put in the boiling water(also very very unitalian)

  19. It's all extremely interesting, though next time that you boil spaghetti, simply don't break them! They're meant to be cooked and eaten as they are 😉

  20. Question about your last comment made in the clip…. Would an entire bundle still snap the same, or have the same chance of it happening? Or would it have less of a chance due to the support of the other spaghetti pieces negating the effect of the force?

  21. it takes a good bit to get me subscribed becouse i like to keep my box clean, i have seen manny of your vids.
    and this one got me to sub to you and i dont really know why.
    maybe the dedication of you figuring out these kind of stuff.
    i fkin loved ur eclipse vid btw.

  22. Old legends tell that ancient intalians, before rome even existed, made a pact with their gods in an effort to immortalize themselves, they were to cast their souls in a long strand of dried egg dough, they would not suffer from any ailment and would never be conquered nor destroyed as long as the strand remained intact, but if it would break, their souls would be cast down to Oblivion, where they would be erased from history forever and their names forgotten, these people however found a way to overcome this limitation as humans always do, and realized that should a loved one eat this strand of dough, their soul would be combined with theirs, and they would live forever in harmony. And that, children, is how spaggheti came to be.

    You just murdered hundreds of italians breaking that pasta

  23. So you gave us a vedio of spaghetti breaking at a quarter million in youtube if we play ot x0.25 we get more proof?

    why you booing me i was right

  24. 3:44 so your trying to tell me right here you DONT see those two very small pieces of spaghetti? I think that’s the answer

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