MIT Researchers Twisted Apart Hundreds of Oreos to Find the Perfect Method

Who says science can't be fun?


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Everyone knows that Oreos are delicious, but now science can prove they defy the laws of science too. 

In 2022, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) unveiled their cookie-centric findings in a study titled, "On Oreology, the fracture and flow of 'milk's favorite cookie.'" The research, which has recently resurfaced on social media, focused on if and how people could evenly split the crème inside an Oreo when twisting it open.

"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 crème evenly arranged on both wafers?" Crystal Owens, one of three authors on the study, and Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering at MIT, shared with Vice in 2022. "I preferred the taste of the cookies with the crème 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." 

To find out if, and how, the crème could be evenly split, the team created the "Oreometer," a 3D-printed apparatus, which employs both rubber bands and weighted coins to represent the force of twisting apart the cookies. The team even open-sourced the design, so anyone with a 3D printer can make their own at home.

Of course, this entire study is much deeper than just finding the perfect cookie twist. It's also a look at rheology, which Nature describes as "the science of measurement of deformation. Virtually all materials deform in response to an imposed stress ('everything breaks if you hit it hard enough') and the materials present in the eye range from liquid-like to soft-solid behavior." 

The researchers further explained their choice of cookie, writing in the study, "Scientifically, sandwich cookies present a paradigmatic model of parallel plate rheometry in which a fluid sample, the crème, is held between two parallel plates, the wafers. When the wafers are counter-rotated, the crème deforms, flows, and ultimately fractures, leading to separation of the cookie into two pieces."

Or, as Owens more succinctly explained to CNet, "We were able to characterize Oreo crème as quantitatively mushy," thus making it the ideal test subject.  

So, what did the team conclude? That despite their best efforts and original hypothesis, it's actually almost impossible to have evenly distributed crème on both sides of an Oreo after twisting. 

"In essentially all possible twisting configurations, the crème tends to delaminate from one wafer, resulting in one nearly bare wafer and one with almost all the crème," Owens additionally shared with Vice. "In the case that crème ends up on both wafers, it tends to divide in half so that each wafer has a 'half-moon' of crème rather than a thin layer, so there is no secret to get crème evenly everywhere just by twisting open—you have to mush it manually if that's what you want."

Why this happens, the researchers explained, is all thanks to the manufacturing process. When making Oreos, the assembly process begins by putting down the first wafer, then dispensing a ball of crème before putting the second wafer on top. However, the split second the crème sits on a single wafer allows it to better adhere to one over the other. 

"Apparently that little time delay may make the crème stick better to the first wafer," Owens shared with MIT News. Don't believe them? Just download the plans for the Oreometer here and try it out for yourself. Or, just enjoy the cookie.

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