Tangled telephone cords and electronic cables that come to resemble bird nests can frazzle even the most stoic person. Now researchers have unraveled the mystery behind how such knots form."
[Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego] and UCSD colleague Dorian Raymer ran a series of homespun experiments in which they dropped a string into a box and tumbled it for 10 seconds (one revolution per second). They repeated the string-dropping more than 3,000 times varying the length and stiffness of the string, box size and tumbling speed.
Digital photos and video of the tumbling strings revealed: Strings shorter than 1.5 feet (.46 meters) didn't form knots; the likelihood of knotting sharply increased as string length went from 1.5 feet to 5 feet (.46 meters to 1.5 meters); and beyond this length, knotting probability leveled off.
While there is no magical knot buster, Smith advised what all sailors, cowboys, electricians, sewers and knitters know: to avoid tangles, keep a cord or string tied in a coil so it can't move.
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