This is how a mathematician recommends you cut a bagel

Is there a perfect way to cut a bagel? Bagel fans everywhere, take note: Dr. Eugenia Cheng, mathematician, scientist and bagel enthusiast, has a rather clever mathematically-based method for bagel slicing, which she says results in a superior bagel that’s primed for cream cheese.

She believes the best way to cut your bagel is so that it looks like a Möbius strip (or Möbius band), which is a mathematical structure with only a single side.

You can make a Möbius strip by taking a strip of paper, twisting it midway, and then taping the ends together, thereby creating one continuous side to the paper. Now, cutting a bagel into a Möbius strip takes a little more effort, but Cheng made a video to demonstrate how it’s done:

“Mmm… it’s the best way to eat a bagel,” she says, around a mouthful of smoked salmon and cream cheese.

But does this bagel-cutting method really work?

For those of us who are klutzes in the kitchen, manipulating a knife around a bagel in a way that keeps the bagel intact and interconnected might prove to be more of a challenge than it’s worth! But for the nimble and curious, creating a Möbius strip out of a bagel does make for an interesting (and tasty) treat, with maximum interior surface exposure for your favorite schmear.

Dr. George Hart, a mathematical sculptor and designer, is also a big fan of the Möbius method and wrote about it in a piece called Mathematically Correct Breakfast. He included a helpful step-by-step tutorial, as well as his own video.

“It is much more fun to put cream cheese on these bagels than on an ordinary bagel,” he says. “In addition to the intellectual stimulation, you get more cream cheese, because there is slightly more surface area.”

bagel cream cheese photo
Flickr | bert_m_b

But not everyone is ready to climb on board the Möbius bandwagon. The folks at My Jewish Learning’s The Nosher are skeptical about the superiority of this visually impressive bagel-cutting method.

“It’s a pretty cool mathematical phenomenon, and it has real world applications. But bagels, in our opinion, just aren’t one of them,” they say. “At best, it’s a cool brunch trick. At it’s worst, it’s a sure way to get cream cheese all over your hands and face.”

To Möbius strip or not to Möbius strip, that is the question. It seems like a no-brainer for the knife-wielding mathematicians among us — but for the rest of us, the Möbius strip might be better suited to the classroom than our favorite bagels.

Curiosity, Food

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About the Author
Kristina Wright
Kristina Wright lives in Virginia with her husband, their two sons and several pets. Her work has appeared in a variety of places, including, BookBub, Washington Post, USA Today, Narratively, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, and more. She loves reading thrillers, going to movies, baking bread and planning family trips where everyone has fun and no one complains. Oh, and she really, really loves coffee. You can find her at the nearest coffee shop or on Twitter @kristinawright.

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