Adventures in scientific cake cutting


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As usual, the Japanese have addressed this issue in their own unique way.


I was bemused by the realization that a “cake” in 1906 Britain must have been an awfully different beast: he suggests holding the pieces together with a rubber band. Try that with a modern cake and the band will immediately return to its slack dimensions, slicing through the cake in the process.

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While I appreciate the desire to avoid dry leftover cake, a tube of extra frosting to cover the exposed surface could also work. I’ve never cared enough to think about it before.

I did read a book once called “How to cut a cake, and other mathematical conundrums” that described an algorithm for cutting a round cake into an arbitrary number of pieces, one per person, such that no one has a right to complain about the size of their piece. Basically you 1) make the initial cut 2) slowly move the knife like the hand of a clock from that point, until 3) any of the eaters says “cut,” and you then you cut the piece there and give it to them and 4) return to step 2. If anyone thinks his or her piece is too big they could have said “cut” sooner. If they think their piece is too small then they must think someone else’s piece is too big, which means while the too-big slice was being measured they could have said “cut” and gotten a larger piece.


But what if they want to have their cake and cut it too?

People can want anything they please, it doesn’t mean they have a right to get it. The algorithm was designed to achieve fair division of a limited resource (and in fact generalizes quite nicely to dividing a pile of almost any nearly continuous quantity of stuff, which now makes me wonder why no one ever uses this method AFAICT).

Just make sure that you are using the proper precautions when scientifically splitting Yellowcake…


The obvious solution is to have a scientific cake that doesn’t need to be cut:


Rubber balls bounced back to almost 1/3 their original height then. Fair trade cane sugar and field burning was dodgier. Today for the same cost you can put a racing velo around your cake…fix that cyclist’s lumps (having convinced them it’s rapid recovery cake!)

European buttercream’s gonna have more solids…but maybe we should imagine use of conveniences of the time like whale fat (kind of waning in 1909) or er, whatever couldn’t be made into lamb tallow, or ah…this was back when vegetable oil was extracted from crushing tons of vegetation (and not olives!) Pummelo dessert extract? Maybe pastry went though the same ageing blue cheese does?

Circular periodic table in a cake, or just eat the representation of the fine structure field.

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Even today, “Christmas cake” in the UK is covered in a hard shell-like “frosting”, nothing like what we do to cakes in the US. I remember being offered a slice my first Christmas in England and wondering why people wanted to eat something that, although very sweet, could easily break your teeth. Actually, now that I think about it, there is that thing about British dental quality …

Easier solution: You don’t like the size of the piece of FREE CAKE you just got? Fine, give it back and get the fuck out of my house.

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