Humans have long used math to explore the Great Mysteries of the universe. What happens if you divide something by zero? How big, exactly, is infinity? What would happen if you bought a cake and didn’t eat the whole thing in a single sitting? Sounds ridiculous, we know.
In answering these questions, the British maths-heads behind the YouTube channel Numberphile have come across a startling fact: We have been cutting cake wrong for more than 100 years. It turns out that the classic method of cutting out wedge-shaped slices, starting from the cake’s center and radiating out to one edge, is dead wrong. The problem with this method: every slice you make leaves two faces of the cake’s delicious interior completely exposed to the elements. Pop an exposed cake in the fridge, two faces become dry and stale overnight. Two slices, instantly ruined (and that’s not even considering the water damage from you crying onto the frosting).
What is the correct way to cut a circular cake, then? The answer comes from an issue of Nature magazine published in December, 1906. The 110-year-old secret: cut the entire cake in half and remove a rectangular slice that spans the cake’s full diameter. As writer and broadcaster Alex Bellos puts it in the video above, “that’s the prime steak of that cake.” The next step: close the two halves of your cake together so that no trace of the spongy interior is left exposed overnight; secure your newly-sized cake with an elastic band for maximum security. On day two, cut through the middle of your still-perfectly-circular cake again, perpendicular to yesterday’s cut, and remove two more beautifully rectangular slices. Continue on in this fashion, cutting smaller and smaller rectangles of cake each day, until you know, at last, what it means to divide something by zero.