Orange Peels and Fresnel Integrals

  • Bartholdi L
  • Henriques A
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Abstract

There are two standard ways of peeling an orange: either cut the skin along meridians, or cut it along a spiral. We consider here the second method, and study the shape of the spiral strip, when unfolded on a table. We derive a formula that describes the corresponding flattened-out spiral. Cutting the peel with progressively thinner strip widths, we obtain a sequence of increasingly long spirals. We show that, after rescaling, these spirals tends to a definite shape, known as the Euler spiral. The Euler spiral has applications in many fields of science. In optics, the illumination intensity at a point behind a slit is computed from the distance between two points on the Euler spiral. The Euler spiral also provides optimal curvature for train tracks between a straight run and an upcoming bend. It is striking that it can be also obtained with an orange and a kitchen knife.

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Authors

  • Laurent Bartholdi

  • André Henriques

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