< Back

Ronald Heisser solves problem that baffled Nobel laureate

August 17, 2018
By Keystone Communications Team

Courtesy MIT/Ronald Heisser & Vishal Patil


Ronald Heisser '12 helped solve a problem that stumped a Nobel laureate, known as the spaghetti mystery.

Here's the question: Why does spaghetti break into several pieces when you try to bend it in half? The answer comes down to the force that breaks the pasta in half causes secondary shock waves that are strong enough to break other parts of the pasta strand.

That question famously stumped Richard Feynman, the Nobel-winning theoretical physicist.

A pair of French researchers answered that question in 2004

But that only brought up another question: Is there any way to break the pasta in half cleanly? Heisser and fellow MIT student Vishal Patil answered "yes" --  with some help. They discovered that the force that causes the secondary breaks can be dissapated if the pasta is twisted as it's folded.The two graduate students created a machine to put their complex mathematical model to apply the necessary force and released a paper on their experiments in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Their work attracted attention from National Public Radio, the Washinton PostFood and Wine magazine, and the French edition of GQ magazine.

M.K. Balu says:
August 30, 2018 02:22 PM CST

Excellent! This is an addition to the 2004 solution to this famous problem, published in one of science's premier forums. Congratulations to Ronald Heisser and Vishal Patil.

We've Moved!