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Science-Backed Tips for Winning the Wishbone this Thanksgiving

Southern Living logo Southern Living 11/8/2018 Meghan Overdeep
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There’s a lot to look forward to in the lead-up to Thanksgiving. For some of us, it’s mama’s pie and the promise of quality time with loved ones. For others, it’s football and days off from work. And then there’s those of us who simply can’t wait for the chance to face off over a brittle turkey bone.

Part superstition, part tradition, wishbone battles have been a post-Thanksgiving event for as long as most of us can remember. For those unfamiliar with the bizarre game, two people grab hold of different sides of a wishbone and pull. The competitor who walks away with the bigger half is the winner. The victor is said to be granted good luck for the rest of the year.

If you were under the impression that it was nothing more than a silly game of chance, think again. According to the great mechanical engineering minds at Scientific American, there are a few scientifically-proven techniques you can employ to ensure your claim on the bigger half.

WATCH: How To Carve A Turkey

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First, it’s imperative that you start with a dry bone. “Collagen, a kind of stretchy protein in bones, weakens as the bone dries, making it brittle enough to snap,” Scientific American’s video (below) on the subject explains.

And now, for the science behind the snap. Wishbones break when “mechanical stress used by the pulling force puts too much pressure on the bone.” To reduce stress on your end, choose the thicker side when you face off. Then, when your enemy starts to pull, keep a firm grip and hold still. If their calculations are correct, the stress should concentrate on your opponent’s side and bend the bone in your favor.

Another, potentially controversial approach to guaranteeing victory, is to choke up on the bone. As Scientific American explains, “the shorter distance lowers torque and the potential for stress on your side.”

And as far as what not to do. Never twist the bone. Bones simply aren’t made to move in certain directions. As it twists, the torque will cause that side to snap.

Replay Video

Happy pulling, y’all, and may the torque be ever in your favor.

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