Math

Here's Why You Should Always Order the Bigger Pizza

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When you're ordering pizzas for a group, the same question always comes up: should you order two mediums or one large? If you want the most pizza for the least money, the answer is always one large. Here's why.

Pie Are Squared

It's simple geometry: the formula for the area of a circle is pi multiplied by the radius squared. That means that the area of a circle gets bigger with the square of its radius — also known as quadratically, rather than linearly. So by doubling the radius of an 8-inch pizza to get a 16-inch pizza, you're actually quadrupling the area. In other words, you'd need four 8-inch pizzas to equal one 16-inch pizza. We're guessing your local pizza place doesn't charge four times more for a large than it does for a small.

In fact, your average pizza place charges a lot less than that. In 2014, Quoctrung Bui of NPR's Planet Money podcast created a pizza-value calculator that shows you just how much pizza you're getting for your money. So say, if you were trying to decide between the extra-large 24-inch pizza or two medium 14-inch pizzas, the graph could tell you the extra-large is the way to go. It gets you the same amount of food as roughly three 14-inch pizzas, and yet costs about $18 less.

Less is More

That being said, more isn't always better when it comes to pizza. When you're worried about running out of food, the bigger pizza is the better option. But when you're worried about your waistline, there's nothing wrong with settling for the smaller pie. Of course, you could always wrap up the leftovers for later. Fresh pizza might be the best thing in the world, but the second best is cold pizza!

A Slice of Pizza Science!

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. A slice of pizza has zero Gaussian curvature, so folding it in one direction makes the other direction more rigid to keep the Gaussian curvature constant. 00:44

  2. The area of a pizza increases with the square of its radius, so a pizza that's 50% wider has 100% more area than a smaller pizza. 01:38

  3. Here's how you can use a pizza and a microwave to measure the speed of light. 02:10

Written by Ashley Hamer July 7, 2016

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