Ramen as a space-filling curve

Although it has stared me in the face for years and should have been plainly obvious, last night I had a revelation that the noodles in Top Ramen are “wrong.”  Actual ramen from a ramen house has straight noodles (and good broth that doesn’t come from a powder, but that’s beside this point).  Ramen noodles are, more or less, a close relative to spaghetti noodles.  Top Ramen, Cup Noodle, and the other lesser-known instant noodles are all wiggly.

I remember from the Ignite Portland talk on Cup Noodle that the Cup Noodle engineers were under a number of constraints regarding the freeze-drying of the broth and the composition of the noodles.  I do not remember anything in the talk about the wiggly packed-in shape of the noodles, but I can see that easily fitting into their design requirements.  Instant soup with straight spaghetti-style noodles would take more space and would be more brittle during shipping.  The wiggly brick of solid noodles is a sort of three-dimensional space-filling curve that packs the most noodles into the smallest space and has the added bonus of being much more solid, rigid, and resilient to shipping damage.

And that’s how my morning disappeared — by exploring fractal curves on Wikipedia.  See also: Peano SpaceDragon Curve, Gosper Curve, Moore Curve, Sierpiński curve, and Z-Order Curve.

Posted in: Dear Diary Food

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Brian Enigma

Brian Enigma is a Portlander, manipulator of atoms & bits, minor-league blogger, and all-around great guy. He typically writes about the interesting “maker” projects he's working on, but sometimes veers off into puzzles, software, games, local news, and current events.

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