Culinary no-no #733


When you think of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) you think big. Real big.

High tech. State of the art. Innovative.  Boundless creativity. Brainiacs galore.

MIT proclaims it strives to “advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.”

MIT graduates “invented fundamental technologies, launched new industries, and created millions of American jobs.”

That’s an understatement. According to MIT:

1944: The digital computer
The first digital computer that could operate in real-time came out of Project Whirlwind, a initiative during World War II in which MIT worked with the U.S. Navy to develop a universal flight simulator. The device’s success led to the creation of MIT Lincoln Laboratory in 1951.

1945: Memex
Professor Vannevar Bush proposed a data system called a “Memex” that would allow a user to “store all all his books, records, and communications” and retrieve them at will — a concept that inspired the early hypertext systems that led, decades later, to the World Wide Web.

1959: The fax
In trying to understand the words of a strongly-accented colleague over the phone, MIT student Sam Asano was frustrated that they couldn’t just draw pictures and instantly send them to each other — so he created a technology to transmit scanned material through phone lines. His fax machine was licensed to a Japanese telecom company before becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

1963: The password
The average person has 13 passwords — and for that you can thank MIT’s Compatible Time-Sharing System, which by most accounts established the first computer password. “We were setting up multiple terminals which were to be used by multiple persons but with each person having his own private set of files,” Professor Corby Corbato told WIRED. “Putting a password on for each individual user as a lock seemed like a very straightforward solution.”

1971: Email
The first email to ever travel across a computer network was sent to two computers that were right next to each other — and it came from MIT alumnus Ray Tomlinson ’65 when he was working at spinoff BBN Technologies.

1973: The PC
MIT Professor Butler Lampson founded Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), where his work earned him the title of “father of the modern PC.” The Xerox Alto platform was used to create the first graphical user interface (GUI), the first bitmapped display, and the first “What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get” (WYSIWYG) editor.

2002: Roomba
While we don’t yet have robots running errands for us, we do have robo-vacuums — and for that, we can thank MIT spinoff iRobot. The company has sold more than 20 million of its Roombas and spawned an entire industry of automated cleaning products.

You get the idea.

Now, here’s a line from MIT’s Mission Statement I just love.

“The Institute is committed to generating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge, and to working with others to bring this knowledge to bear on”…are you ready…”the world’s great challenges.”

To that end MIT researchers have taken on an issue that has perplexed millions around the globe because, how does the phrase go? Inquiring minds want to know.

MIT, can you please help us?

Are we eating our Oreos all wrong?

If we examine this rather serious dilemma scientifically, the American Institute of Physics (AIP) describes it this way. Stay with me, everybody:

The mechanical experience of consumption (i.e., feel, softness, and texture) of many foods is intrinsic to their enjoyable consumption, one example being the habit of twisting a sandwich cookie to reveal the cream. Scientifically, sandwich cookies present a paradigmatic model of parallel plate rheometry in which a fluid sample, the cream, is held between two parallel plates, the wafers. When the wafers are counter-rotated, the cream deforms, flows, and ultimately fractures, leading to separation of the cookie into two pieces. Using a laboratory rheometer, we measure failure mechanics of the eponymous Oreo’s “creme” and probe the influence of rotation rate, amount of creme, and flavor on the stress–strain curve and postmortem creme distribution. The results typically show adhesive failure, in which nearly allw (95%) creme remains on one wafer after failure.

Say what?

In a word, it’s “Oreology.”

Translation: If you prefer twisting an Oreo in an effort to have two equal parts, it ain’t happening.

I’m guessing Crystal Owens has a bright future ahead. She’s a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering at MIT, and she reportedly has wanted to discover an equal creme ratio in Oreos her whole life.

“I was personally motivated by a desire to solve a challenge that had puzzled me as a child: how to open an Oreo and get creme evenly arranged on both wafers? I preferred the taste of the cookies with the creme exposed. If I got a bite of wafer alone it was too dry for me, and if I dunked it in milk the wafer would fall apart too fast.” 

Owens led a team of researchers in a quest to find how it can be accomplished, and her critical tool is the aforementioned rheometer that measures the thickness and stickiness of  substances. 

Let’s cut to the chase. You can try and try and try in a laboratory under the best of conditions and your chances of winning the lottery might be better than getting two equal amounts of creme after unscrewing an Oreo.

My question is: Why in the world twist an Oreo in the first place? Dunk, just bite into it, or swallow the doggone thing whole.

Read all about Crystal and her “Oreology” study here.


ICYMI last week…

2 thoughts on “Culinary no-no #733

  1. I’m not an MIT grad, but maybe a simple act of bisecting it with a sharp Chef knife, right down the center, will resolve the issue, rather than reinvent the cookie.


  2. Pingback: Culinary no-no #734 | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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