Phenomena

Ig Nobel Fluids: Cookie Dunking

Back in 1999 Len Fisher earned an Ig Nobel Prize in Physics for explaining the physics of dunking a biscuit or cookie in a liquid. The cookie is porous, with many tiny, interconnecting channels run throughout it. When dipped in a liquid, capillary action pulls the fluid up into these channels against the force of gravity. As most people discover, this wetting can soften the cookie to the point of collapse. The optimal manner of dunking then is to hold the cookie at a shallow angle; this allows the lower surface to soak in milk (or the hot beverage of your choice) while keeping the upper surface dry and structurally sound. Fisher further argued that Washburn’s equation, which describes the time necessary for capillary action to draw a liquid up a given length of a cylindrical pore gives a good estimate of the length of time for a cookie dunking. This proved so popular he even wrote a book about it. This is a part of a series on fluids-related Ig Nobel Prizes. (Photo credit: C. Lindberg; research credit: L. Fisher)

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