How would you separate these bowls? The question that grabbed the internet

Want advice on struggling with life’s smallest inconveniences? Tweet about it. Sure, there’s a chance you’ll be bullied off the platform and forever afraid to show your face in public, but maybe – just maybe – someone will have a solution.

Thankfully the latter happened this week when New York-based artist Chi Nguyen, at her wits end after many attempts to separate two bowls that had become stuck together, pleaded for help on Twitter.

I stacked a ceramic bowl into another one while doing dishes and now they are stuck, she wrote. How do you remove the smaller bowl without breaking both of them?

Welcome to the internet, where everyone broadcasts the most mundane aspects of life to the world. Who cares?

As it turns out, quite a few people. Nguyen’s post has been retweeted more than 30,000 times in just over a day and she has received hundreds of replies – ranging from the helpful (boiling water) to the less so (take it up a mountain and hope altitude breaks them apart). It was the super bowls competition (sorry) that no one saw coming.

I’d just call my nan.

Yeah, but would your nan journey with you over more than 24 hours of working day and night, attempting 30 different methods of separation? Would she create a on the bowls’ situation, or reveal the sheer delight when her suggestion is proven mildly helpful? (No offence, Granny. )

OK, I admit to being ever so slightly curious now.

Welcome to the club.

What happened to the bowls?

In a true internet miracle, the bowls have been separated. But I have to warn you, it was a roller coaster journey to the finish line. Nguyen started with the basics: ice on the inside (to make the smaller bowl smaller) and hot water on the outside (to make the bigger bowl bigger) and a bunch of other things. No dice.

Things soon got desperate. After trying many other strategies, Nguyen did what most regular people would do in this situation: talk to the bowls. Not even that worked!

Eventually, the increasingly desperate tweeter handed the bowls over to her toddler. And look what happened.

Indeed, it seems that ye olde upside down and floor banging strategies were the answer Twitter was looking for.

I’m genuinely happy for my new friend. But… how did they even get stuck in the first place?

Well, I asked someone who knows a thing or two about physics. It’s all due to the coefficient of linear expansion, explains Paul Briozzo, from Sydney University’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering. Put simply, when something gets hotter, it gets bigger. A bowl-loving Poirot might propose that the smaller bowl expanded in hot water while Nguyen was washing up.

It happens often – anyone with a cocktail shaker knows the problem. And Briozzo reckons the old hot-cold water solution will usually do the trick.

Running hot water on the outside dish and ice-cold water on the inside dish will expand the outside and shrink the inside, he says. You only need a small dimensional change to get the two to release.

And now the story comes to an end. What a lovely day on the internet.

I don’t know if solving these bowls-stuck-together issues is what the World Wide Web’s founder was thinking when he created it, but I’m here for anything to bring people together.

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