This spaghetti-breaking problem stumped physicist Richard Feynman. Two MIT students have now solved it.

By Allyson Chiu

A quick Google search of the current biggest mysteries in physics turns up a daunting list of questions: What exactly is dark matter? Why does time only move in one direction? What happens inside a black hole?

But sometimes, as American physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman discovered decades ago, equally vexing conundrums can be found in everyday objects, say dry spaghetti noodles.

One night, while preparing one of his favorite meals with supercomputer pioneer Danny Hillis, Feynman noticed something strange about spaghetti. If a dry noodle is taken and broken in half, it will almost always break into three or more pieces, tiny bits spraying in every direction.

“Why is this true — why does it break into three pieces? We spent the next two hours coming up with crazy theories,” Hillis recalled in a biography about Feynman. But, after two hours, all the duo had were their theories — “no real good” ones, Hillis said — and a mess of broken spaghetti all over Feynman’s kitchen.

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