Scientists find themselves Almost working from home with everyone else when the university was closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The closure of research laboratories in particular poses unique challenges for experimenters. That’s how physicists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) found themselves looking for experiments to perform in their home kitchens. Physicists eventually studied the physics of cooking pasta — first by conducting home experiments and then repeating them more precisely in the lab when universities reopened.

Cooking instructions for most packaged dry pasta typically recommend a cooking time of 8 to 10 minutes, but this imprecise method can result in a wide variance in the consistency of cooked pasta.Among other discoveries, UIUC physicists have come up with a simple technique for determining when spaghetti is perfect using just a ruler very chewy, the time-honored tradition of not needing to throw cooked wire at the wall – although the latter arguably requires less setup. (Yes, freaked Italians, the tasting method works too. But what’s the fun in that?)

A paper about the researchers’ findings has just been accepted for publication in the journal fluid physicstwo of the authors presented the work this week at the American Physical Society meeting in Chicago.

A staggering number of scientific papers have attempted to understand the various properties of pasta, including cooking and eating – for example, the mechanisms by which pasta is slurped into your mouth or spit out (aka the “reverse pasta problem”). The most famous question is how Let the dry pasta line divide neatly into two parts, not three or more parts.

French physicists successfully explained dynamics in their 2006 Ig Nobel Prize-winning paper. They found that, counterintuitively, dried spaghetti produced a “recoil” traveling wave when it broke.This wave is temporary Increase The curvature of other parts, leading to more fractures.

In 2018, Ars reported on the work of two MIT mathematicians who came up with a useful trick: twist the spaghetti 270 degrees, then slowly bring the ends together, breaking the spaghetti in half . Twisting weakens the rebound effect, and as the strand twists and returns to its original straightness, it releases pent-up energy so there won’t be any additional breakage.

Back in 2020, UC Berkeley physicists explained why spaghetti in a pot of boiling water starts to sag as it softens, then slowly sinks to the bottom of the pot, where it curls back into a U-shape.

As we reported at the time, pasta, like most pasta, is made from semolina, which is mixed with water to form a paste and extruded into the desired shape (in this case, fine and straight rods). The commercial product is then dried – another active area of ​​research, as the strands are prone to cracking during the process.

So what happens to dry pasta in boiling water? It only takes a few seconds for the strands to reach the same temperature as the water, but it takes longer for the water to pass through the pasta’s starchy base. When this happens, the pasta will swell and a small amount of amylose will seep into the water.Finally, starch gelatinization occurs, a chemical process that controls the texture changes that prepare the pasta very chewy.