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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 06:21 GMT
Velocity vital in pancake tossing
Pancake tossing
Tossing the perfect pancake is not as easy as it looks
A senior physics lecturer at Birmingham University has come up with the solution to toss the perfect pancake.

Dr Garry Tungate carried out the scientific experiment in the kitchen of his Selly Oak home.

He concluded that a pancake should be flipped into the air at a speed of 10 miles-an-hour, which means it takes less than .5 of a second to reach the top of its trajectory.

Every year, tradition has it that people struggle with the art of flipping the pancake into the air and landing it back in the pan.

Air speed

Dr Tungate found a string of complicated formulas and theories involving kinetic energy, torque, gravity and velocity are all required to toss the perfect pancake.

Dr Tungate even found that if your pancake ends up on the kitchen floor it will land uncooked side down.

The perfect toss
Half a joule of energy is needed to get a 50g pancake airborne to a height of one metre
It should take 0.45 seconds on the downward journey, completing the perfect toss with a 90 degree flip
A pancake will hit the pan with a velocity of 4.5 metres per second or splat onto the floor at 14 miles an hour just 1.1 seconds after its launch

He said: "It was very interesting carrying out the study.

"There is far more to tossing a pancake than meets the eye.

"I found that an average toss is a lot less than one-metre but a one-metre toss is much more impressive."

Dr Tungate, who based his study on a 50g pancake, added: "The best way to do it is to flip the wrist so that the pan moves in an upward arc which causes the pancake to slide up and out of the pan.

"A direct lift leaves a partial vacuum under the pancake which tends to keep it in the pan. The movement in the arc supplies the torque to flip the pancake."

The experiment was commissioned by supermarket giant, Safeway, which unveiled the results on Monday in time for Shrove or "pancake" Tuesday.

Safeway nutritionist Moira Howie said the company hoped the study would help people master the art of tossing a pancake.

"We believe all our customers can be expert chefs with a bit of help.

"So we thought we would investigate the science behind the tossing of a pancake and the results are quite interesting.

"Not only does it involve kinetic energy, torque and velocity, it needs a pretty nifty wrist action and a good non-stick pan too."


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