In Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon plays an MIT janitor who solves a nearly unsolvable math problem that gets him the opportunity to do math every single day and see a psychologist. Yay? Think how motivated he would have been if solving the equation would have resulted in the world’s most scientifically perfect pizza instead.
In a paper titled “The Physics of Baking Good Pizza,” published earlier this year in the preprint journal arXiv and unearthed by LiveScience, physicists Andrey Varlamov of the Institute of Superconductors, Oxides and Other Innovative Materials and Devices and Andreas Glatz of Northern Illinois University teamed up with food anthropologist Sergio Grasso to get to the bottom of the science behind the perfect pizza. Since today is election day in the U.S., and many of us will be eating our feelings later, we figured it was worth a look.
Turns out the secret to a perfect pizza is all about the thermodynamics of the wood-fired brick ovens used to crisp a pizza crust to golden perfection. The wood fire burns in one corner, radiating heat up the curved walls and stone floor of the oven to produce the perfect conditions for an evenly baked pie. Under ideal thermodynamic conditions, you could be eating a Margherita pizza in precisely two minutes in a brick oven heated to 625 degrees F (330 degrees C).
If you don’t have a brick pizza oven at home because your landlord has no vision, the authors devised a lengthy thermodynamic equation (as well as the first true justification for doing your math homework) that explains the physics of creating the perfect pie in the electric oven sitting in your kitchen right now. The secret? Turning the heat down to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 170 seconds.
Crack the equation in their paper . . . or have Matt Damon do it for you.