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Cutting a round cake with knife, elastic bands and principles

Posted June 19, 2014
Cutting a round cake with knife, elastic bands and principles

There is a good way and a bad way to cut cake. Ask Alex Bellos the author of The Grapes of Math: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life. Bellos talks about scientific principles governing a better way to cut a cake then taking a knife to just slice into a cake’s circle shape for serving triangular wedges. The classic cut-into-wedges way is the bad way. In a Numberphile instructional video, first taking a knife, and going up to the center and creating a slice, appears to be just fine but he reveals why it is not fine: After cutting out the wedge as a slice, if you place the rest of the cake in the fridge to keep overnight, on the next day you find that the part of the cake closest to the opening where you had sliced is dry. So that leftover slice which you aim to cut next has one side of which is soft and the other hard. “You are not maximizing the gastronomic pleasure,” said Bellos.

Now for the best way. Bellos said the explanation for the best way is actually over 100 years old, thanks to one of Britain’s mathematical scientists, he said, Francis Galton, who sent a letter to the editor about his cake-cutting idea, which was published inNature. Bellos displayed a copy of the letter, from 1906, titled “Cutting a Round Cake on Scientific Principles.”

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