Rocks, paper, scissors. Odds & evens. Highest roll. Heads or tails. And for at least a certain generation—let’s call it Old Millennials—the Oreo twist-off game.
When you’re a kid, you constantly need ways to make quick, unbiased decisions on issues like who gets first pick in the recess basketball draft, who gets to keep the comic book you found in the science lab, and who has to go up to the cute new transfer and ask him to the Sadie Hawkins Dance. One quick way was introduced by Nabisco in a mid-1990s TV ad campaign for Oreos, their famous cream-filled cookie sandwich: Hold one side of the cookie while your friend holds the other, twist, and see who ends up with the cream.
Except, as a group of Princeton University physicists recently discovered, there’s a way to predict exactly which side the cream ends up on.
In 2014, John Cannarella, Dan Quinn, and Joshua Spechler were all graduate students in the mechanical and aerospace engineering program at Princeton. At 4pm every day, their department would put out coffee and cookies, including—surprise—Oreos. For months, teatime went by without the trio giving a second thought to the cookies, but then one day the Oreo twist-off game came up. “The Oreo was our generation’s wishbone,” says Quinn, currently a postdoc at Stanford University.
Cannarella claimed he had a childhood friend who always won the Oreo twist-off game. This being a group of scientists, they decided to investigate.