The game of twisting an Oreo has been used to make decisions, random predictions and resolve disagreements for decades. Now, a group of graduate students from Princeton claim to have cracked the code for which cookie the cream will end up on so that you can be a dirty cheater.
John Cannarella, Dan Quinn, and Joshua Spechler were studying together at Princeton’s mechanical and aerospace engineering program, in 2014, when they decided to solve the mystery of the Oreo twist. Quinn, who is currently a postdoc at Stanford University, tells Quartz, “The Oreo was our generation’s wishbone.”
At first, they assumed that someone must have already taken on the problem but cursory research turned up nothing. Spechler, currently a hardware engineer at Apple, says he assumed it was probably a bit of a coin flip, “Intuition would say there’s no advantage.”
Cannarella, now a mechanical engineering consultant at DuPont, compares the material systems to shatterproof glass and batteries, “It’s interesting from an engineering standpoint since the cookie is similar to many modern composites: a strong brittle layer (the wafer) for strength coupled with a weaker ductile layer (the cream) for toughness.”
The three set about performing lab tests. Using a rotation rig, they observed one cookie after another being twisted apart. They tried using a load frame that tests forces on objects. Two metal arms would hold the cookie steady and the top arm pulled a single wafer to read the tensile load and displacement — getting a measurement of how much pulling force the cookie could withstand and what occurred with the cream.
After going through hundreds of Oreos and enlisting friends to test in real world situations the three pulled back on the macro-view of things and eventually noticed a pattern. They found that for every cookie in the box, the cream was always on the same side. With that observation, Quinn says, “it was easy to make the leap that it’s a feature of the manufacturing process.”
So, basically, if you want to pull some parlor trick or be a total scumbag, just take a box of Oreos and test one. Whatever side the cream is on for that one cookie, it will be on for all of the rest.
What’s interesting beyond the novelty side of things is that Nabisco is extremely secretive about its process. They famously won’t say who should be credited for the signature design on the cookie which has turned into a rabbit hole of conspiracy theory. And they won’t say how the manufacturing process of the Oreo works.
But the Discovery Channel produced a short documentary about the Newman’s Own version of the Oreo, which they call “Newman-O.” It shows a cylindrical pump applying cream to one wafer and a robotic arm placing the second wafer on top further down the assembly line.
Spechler says that they think this indicates that the side of the Oreo that retains the cream is the first wafer. Because the hot cream is better able seep into all of the little cracks and crevices at first and then when it has cooled a bit the second wafer is smooshed on.
Basically, these three guys were probably high as hell when they started on this mission. As with most stoner experiments, you learn a little something that you probably wouldn’t have known but it’s pretty much useless.