Science: Crack!

How tough is a nut? Plenty tough, says the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research. Two Institute physiologists wondered how much muscle the baby plant needs to work its way out of the nutshell; they tapped an assortment of mixed nuts, applied hydraulic pressure through the bore and took careful readings as the shells cracked open. Some of the findings:

¶ Black walnuts, gathered at harvest time, cracked at 627 Ibs. But after 135 days in warm moist earth their breaking point fell to 275 Ibs.

¶ Butternuts gave way at 665 Ibs., failed to soften appreciably after four months of...

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