7 Food and Drink Hacks Based on Math and Science

The kitchen is a great place to apply the principles you learned in school in real life. Ever wonder how you can keep a day-old cake from drying out? Or how to slice your bagel for optimal cream cheese coverage? Some of the hungriest minds in the fields of math and science have got your back.

1. SLICE A CAKE FOR MAXIMUM MOISTURE

Leftover birthday cake should be one of life’s greatest pleasures, but instead it becomes vulnerable to moisture-zapping air the moment you slice into it. Fortunately, this problem can be avoided with some simple geometry. In the video above, mathematician Alex Bellos outlines an alternative cake-cutting method he found in a 1906 issue of Nature magazine written by Sir Francis Galton. Rather than eating away at a round cake one wedge at a time, he suggests cutting one big sliver spanning the cake’s diameter. The center cut means that instead of having a giant exposed area that will dry out two future slices of cake at once, one rubber band can be used to hold the pieces together, exposing none of the soft interior to the air. This keeps the interior nice and moist until the cake is ready to be sliced into again (although it should be noted—rubberbanding a frosted cake rather than the fondant-covered ones shown in the video could get really messy really fast).

2. COAX KETCHUP FROM THE BOTTLE

As long as ketchup has been packaged in glass bottles, diners have struggled to set it free. If you’ve ever been the victim of a flash ketchup flood after minutes of fruitless shaking, you can blame physics. Ketchup is a non-Newtonian fluid, which in this case means it behaves like a solid sometimes (like when it refuses to leave its bottle) and like a liquid other times (when it all comes pouring out at once).

According to Heinz’s team of scientists, ketchup is meant to flow at 147.84 feet per hour, so hitting the bottle with full force isn’t your best bet. Anthony Stickland of the University of Melbourne's School of Engineering instead recommends doing the majority of the work while the cap’s still secure. On the University’s website he instructs readers to “briefly invoke your inner paint shaker” and evenly distribute the solid particles throughout the bottle. Next, with the cap still on, flip the container upside down and thrust the contents towards the neck. After that you’re ready to get the ketchup on your plate: Remove the cap and use one hand to aim the bottle at the plate at a 45 degree angle while gently tapping the bottom with the other, tapping harder and harder until you find the correct strength for that particular ketchup. If you still can’t get the hang of it after all that, perhaps a plastic squeeze bottle is more your style.

3. CREATE A MÖBIUS BAGEL

In math, a möbius strip is a twisting, continuous plane that has one surface and one edge. The shape has a handful of practical uses in the real world, like achieving optimal bagel-to-schmear ratio. Research professor and mathematical sculptor George Hart came up with this ingenious application several years ago. To produce the perfect cut, he makes four separate incisions into a bagel after first marking the key points with a food-safe marker for guidance. The final result pulls apart into two separate halves linked together like a chain. In addition to the impressive presentation, the möbius bagel offers more surface area for spreading. Now you can get more cream cheese on your bagel without slathering it on in gobs.

4. DUNK BISCUITS WITHOUT GETTING CRUMBS IN YOUR TEA

Dunking biscuits in tea is a popular British pastime, but it comes at a price: a mug full of sad, soggy crumbs. Scientists at the University of Bristol in England offered a solution to this problem in the late 1990s in the form of a mathematical formula. Instead of turning the cookie sideways, the researchers recommend dipping it into the tea broad-size first. Once the bottom surface is sufficiently moist, dunkers should flip the biscuit 180 degrees to allow the dry side to support the wet one. Apparently the snack is worth the effort: According to the study, biscuits are up to 10 times more flavorful dunked than dry.

5. CUT EQUAL SLICES OF PIZZA TO FEED A CROWD

Joel Haddley via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Slicing a pizza into wedges works well enough at first, but there will inevitably be at least one person who wants only cheesy goodness and tosses the crust, while another person just can’t get enough crust. In 2016, researchers at the University of Liverpool proposed a brilliant alternative: dividing the pie into manageable, equal-sized pieces according to the monohedral disc tiling formula.

The basic design produces 12 slices. To start, the server slices the pie end-to-end along a curving path. They do this three times to create six, claw-shaped slices, then they cut each slice in half at an angle to make the full 12. Instead of floppy, skinny slivers, diners have their pick of funky-shaped pieces from any part of the pizza. In their study [PDF], researchers demonstrate how this concept can be taken even further. As long as the shapes have an odd number of sides, the monohedral disc tiling method can theoretically go on forever (though the authors specify that nine-sided slices are where things start to get impractical. You may want to spring for a second pie at that point).

6. FOLLOW THE FORMULA FOR A PERFECT GRILLED CHEESE ON TOAST

Many people have their own ideas of what constitutes an excellent grilled cheese, but the Royal Society of Chemistry's recipe is based on science. In 2013, they teamed up with the British Cheese Board to devise a formula for the optimal cheese on toast. Society science executive Ruth Neale said in a press release:

"As the result of tests we carried out in our Chemistry Centre kitchen, we found that the perfect slice can be made by melting 50 grams of sliced hard cheese, such as cheddar, on a slice of white bread, 10 millimeters thick, under the grill. The cheese on toast should sit at a distance of 18 centimeters from the heat source [...] and needs to cook for four minutes to achieve the perfect consistency and taste.”

The full equation, which includes variables for bread thickness and cheese mass, is available on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s website.

7. POUR CHAMPAGNE WITHOUT LOSING THE BUBBLES

Whipping up a meal based on complex algorithms can be exhausting. If you plan to reward yourself with a glass of post-dinner bubbly, just make sure to serve it the correct way. According to scientists from the University of Reims in France, that means pouring champagne into a tilted glass the same way you’d pour a pint of beer. Those effervescent CO2 bubbles that make champagne so pleasant to drink are also clamoring to escape into the atmosphere the moment you pop the cork. Their study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests pouring your beverage at an angle to retain as many bubbles as possible. This method is less turbulent than pouring liquid into an upright glass, thus giving the carbon dioxide less opportunity to break free. To maximize the amount of bubbles per glass, the researchers also recommend chilling the champagne before serving.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Warby Parker Created a Spray to Prevent Your Glasses From Fogging Up When You Wear a Face Mask

They're smiling under the masks (because their glasses aren't foggy).
They're smiling under the masks (because their glasses aren't foggy).
Julian Wan, Unsplash

A face mask won’t keep you from getting enough oxygen, but it might keep you from seeing clearly through your glasses. When you exhale, your warm breath usually dissipates into the air in front of you. When you’re wearing a face mask, on the other hand, it gets funneled through the gaps around your nose and turns into tiny water droplets after colliding with your much colder lenses. In other words, it fogs up your glasses.

To prevent this from happening, Warby Parker has created an anti-fog spray that absorbs those droplets as soon as they form on your lenses, before they can cloud your view. It’s not the only product like it on the market—Amazon alone has dozens—but Warby Parker’s version has the added benefit of cleaning your lenses, too.

The perfect solution.Warby Parker

As Prevention.com reports, the spray is part of the company’s “Clean My Lenses Kit,” which comes with a bottle of anti-fog spray, a microfiber cloth, and a pouch for your glasses (or for storing the other two products in the kit). All you do is spritz both sides of your lenses, wipe them down with the cloth, and venture out for your fog-free day.

The spray works with any type of lens, which makes it a useful innovation even for people who just wear regular sunglasses. It can also come in handy during plenty of other fog-inducing situations, like sipping a hot beverage or cooking over a hot stove.

You can order a kit online for $15, or look for one in your local Warby Parker store. In the meantime, here are a few DIY ways to keep your glasses from getting foggy.

[h/t Prevention.com]

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