NCBI ROFL: The physics of tossing pizza dough.

By ncbi rofl | May 22, 2012 7:00 pm

Rotating bouncing disks, tossing pizza dough, and the behavior of ultrasonic motors.

“Pizza tossing and certain forms of standing-wave ultrasonic motors (SWUMs) share a similar process for converting reciprocating input into continuous rotary motion. We show that the key features of this motion conversion process such as collision, separation and friction coupling are captured by the dynamics of a disk bouncing on a vibrating platform. The model shows that the linear or helical hand motions commonly used by pizza chefs and dough-toss performers for single tosses maximize energy efficiency and the dough’s airborne rotational speed; on the other hand, the semielliptical hand motions used for multiple tosses make it easier to maintain dough rotation at the maximum speed. The system’s bifurcation diagram and basins of attraction also provide a physical basis for understanding the peculiar behavior of SWUMs and provide a means to design them. The model is able to explain the apparently chaotic oscillations that occur in SWUMs and predict the observed trends in steady-state speed and stall torque as preload is increased.”

Photo: flickr/Jeff Kubina

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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl

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