Colloquium – The Mathematics of Taffy Pulling

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, Oct 20th 2021 4:00pm
  • Venue: 203 TMCB
  • Speaker: Jean-Luc Thiffeault
  • College/Organization: Mathematics

Taffy is a type of candy made by repeatedly “pulling” (stretching and folding) a mass of heated sugar. The purpose of pulling is to get air bubbles into the taffy, which gives it a nicer texture. Until the late 19th century, taffy was pulled by hand – an arduous task. The early 20th century saw an avalanche of new devices to mechanize the process. These devices have fascinating connections to the topological dynamics of surfaces, in particular with pseudo-Anosov maps. The motion of the pins of the taffy puller can be related to orbits of singularities on closed surfaces of genus one and higher. Special algebraic integers such as the Golden ratio and the lesser-known Silver ratio make an appearance, as well as more exotic numbers. We examine different designs from a mathematical perspective, and discuss their efficiency. This will be a “colloquium style” talk that should be accessible to graduate students.


Refreshments at 3:30 225 TMCB

Begins at 4:00pm 203 TMCB

Everyone Welcome!