The human body is a surprisingly versatile instrument for testing edibles of all kinds. Our fingers can break and bend foods, our noses can sniff for ripeness and rottenness, our eyes measure color and detect blemishes, and our teeth and tongues tackle texture. But for food and drink manufacturers that need to establish a precise baseline of consistency across a huge number of products, the human body can’t always provide the kind of hard data that’s needed. (That said, some scientists have forced panels of humans to, for example, measure how many chews it takes before it’s possible to swallow a Tootsie Roll.)
For decades, scientists and researchers have been coming up with ways to get that hard data, and in large part, that requires some gadgets. Humans have invented specialized machines to measure every possible quality of a food you can think of. And for every quality you can think of, there are about ten you’d never come up with on your own. From measuring the precise pressure it takes to snap a cookie, to the force needed to pull apart mozzarella cheese, to a rotating device that measures how far you can twist an apple before it breaks, there is a massive and often hilarious world of machines designed to push food to the breaking point, in the interest of figuring out exactly what it takes to do so.
Here are some of our favorites: