The Cheese and Salami Experiments

Through the clever use of cheese in 2004, researchers at the University of Reading claimed to have solved one of life’s great little mysteries. “Why is it relatively difficult, even with a sharp knife, to cut when simply ‘pressing down’, but much easier to cut as soon as some sideways sawing or slicing action is introduced?”

The scientists, AG (“Tony”) AtkinsGeorge Jeronimidis [pictured here], and X Xu, published a monograph called Cutting, by “Pressing and Slicing”, of Thin Floppy Slices of Materials Illustrated by Experiments on Cheddar Cheese and Salami. It was the highlight of that April’s issue of the Journal of Materials Science.

The team experimented on a piece of cheese that they identified only as “commercial Cheddar cheese”. They were equally cagey about the nature of the meat….

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.