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MIT students develop device for unscrewing an Oreo without getting crumbs all over your hands

They did it, of course, for science: MIT News reports physics students who puzzled over why the cream in an Oreo tends to stick to just one wafer when you unscrew it not only developed a device to apply different amounts of force to the unscrewing process but realized they had a good experiment for hands-on rheology: "The study of how a non-Newtonian material flows when twisted, pressed, or otherwise stressed."

MIT engineers have now subjected the sandwich cookie to rigorous materials tests to get to the center of a tantalizing question: Why does the cookie’s cream stick to just one wafer when twisted apart?

It turns out the answer may have come from videos showing how Nabisco factories make the cookies - a blob of white goo is globbed onto one wafer, to which it starts to adhere and then the second wafer is added.

In pursuit of the answer, the students built an oreometer - a device for measuring just how much torque is needed to unscrew and Oreo. And since sharing is caring, they've posted computerized instructions for 3-D printing a device that lets you determine exactly how much force to apply in an attempt to unscrew an Oreo without getting your hands too messy.


The researchers also measured the torque required to twist open an Oreo, and found it to be similar to the torque required to turn a doorknob and about 1/10th what’s needed to twist open a bottlecap. The cream’s failure stress - i.e. the force per area required to get the cream to flow, or deform - is twice that of cream cheese and peanut butter, and about the same magnitude as mozzarella cheese. Judging from the cream’s response to stress, the team classifies its texture as “mushy,” rather than brittle, tough, or rubbery.

Seems like it wouldn't be that much of a step from all this to building a device to answer the question of how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

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We already know the answer to how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. The answer is Three.

Voting closed 16

Nabisco cookie



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Watch out Cheetos. We're coming after you

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It's called "The Napkin".

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They've had Double Stuff, Triple Double, MEGA STUF, The MOST STUF; I figure it won't be long before they'll just sell a package with 3 trays full of the creme.

Voting closed 9

Because MIT isn't smart enough to solve real life problems like homelessness, poverty, and other things that are beneath them.

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Did you happen to see the post about Boston's new planning chief, who will play a key role in dealing with all those? Go to the home page and scroll for it - and see where he got his master's.

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I'm all for novel approaches to problems, but "why aren't the engineers solving homelessness?" is a bit of a stretch.

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The Oreo problem appears to be in the field of materials science and applied physics. The subject is a bit whimsical, but hardly beyond the pale: it's an application of scientific principles to a common object. If you follow scientific research, the problems that it attempts to solve are generally discrete and limited in scope, because to do otherwise risks invalidating any conclusions you might wish to make. These conclusions, in turn, can contribute to solutions to policy problems such as "homelessness, poverty and other things", But to say that scientific researchers aren't "smart enough" because their focus is not on providing direct solutions to policy problems is absurd.

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These are physics students. So short of coming up with something to yeet the rich off the planet for good, they're not going to have the right levers to apply to the problem.

But research on the physics problems of an Oreo might lead to work on more broadly useful assistive technology.

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Do you really expect students to be solving complex real life problems in fields they aren't studying? MIT has lots of departments where students work on the issues you mention - Urban Studies, Political Science, Economics, to name a few. Not physics. Plus did you see the article about the Banana Lounge last week? A real project that feeds students plus fosters a sense of community.

Also, it's great when student projects are fun. That's how you get students engaged, plus completely fits MIT's culture. They had to build equipment that would measure something that is relevant to other, real world questions.

As to being non-Newtonian. Of course it's not Newtonian - it's Cantabrigian.

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This research deserves the Ig Nobel Prize in Nutrition!
Well done team.

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