18 June 2007


Bram Cohen, the father of BitTorrent, occasionally ruminates on his LiveJournal in a lively, geeky way about subjects like trust and security, poker odds, ergonomic keyboards, and esoteric math problems.

Today he's thinking about forks.

Why does the fork have four tines? The Evolution of Useful Things has an explanation of how the fork came to be, but not a coherent explanation as to why the number stopped at four. More tines would clearly be better, because it would require less force to skewer food and hold it in place better. It appears to be an engineering limitation ...
He goes on to do the math for what kind of materials could have how many tines, talking about the advantages and disadvantages of titanium, Lexan, and (perhaps thinking of the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer) sapphire.

I think I disagree that more tines would be be better. The tines would of course have to be narrower, which it seems might interfere with the fork's food-platform function.


Katherine Summer said...

2007-06-18 09:23 pm (local) (link) DeleteTrack This
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At Governor's school, a "special" program for "special" people in which I produly participated during the summer of my 16th year, we had forks with three tines, which made them threeks.

Anonymous said...

This guy's an engineer? More tines = more force required to skewer food. Each tine requires a minimum penetrative force to puncture the surface of the food and each tine has frictional losses as it further embeds itself into said food item.

Tridents for greater food efficiency!


Erik said...

Cohen's ruminations serve only to obfuscate the truth: the spork is the one true utensil.

TheWayOfTheGun said...

@Batojar - Bram isn't merely *an* engineer. He's a very prominent engineer. How many of us can say we developed a networking protocol which is in wide use on the internets today? Bram is a smart little fucker.

@Erik - I concur.

As for ease of skewering, that's not an attibute that should be maximize but rather kept in an ideal range. Skewering food is good, but skewing one's one face is suboptimal. I regret to say I have direct knowledge of this.

Jonathan Korman said...

I cannot say how reassuring it is when I post something I worry is too weird to interest any readers, and it generates a bunch of comments.

Anonymous said...

Oops, my comment came across as snarkier than intended. Still the structural engineering principles I mentioned still apply. I also agree that Bram is really looking for solid gold cutlery to combat the metallic taste problem.

As to how the engineering principles of internet networking protocols work, I have no idea. I have been led to believe that it is not a truck.

Carbon-fiber sporks for all!