How is it that phone cords, earbuds, and the string for my son's gyroscope so often end up a knotted mess? To find out, biophysicists and mathematicians are developing experiments to exploring how knots can spontaneously form so quickly. Their research may provide insight not only into the tangled web of power cords behind your desk but also natural knots, like those in proteins and DNA. From Science News:
By tumbling a string of rope inside a box, biophysicists Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith have discovered that knots–even complex knots–form surprisingly fast and often. The string first coils up, and then its free ends swivel around the other coils, tracing a random path among them. That essentially makes the coils into a braid, producing knots, the scientists say...Link
In topology, a knot is any curved line that closes up on itself, possibly after a circuitous path in three dimensions. A circle is regarded as the "trivial" knot. Two loops are considered to be the same knot if you can turn one into the other by topological manipulation, which in this case means anything that does not break the curve or force it to run through itself.
Topologically, a knotted string is not a real knot, as long as its ends are free. That's because either of the ends can always thread back through any entanglement and undo the knot. An open string, no matter how garbled, is the same as a straight segment. (Mathematicians usually think of strings as being stretchable and infinitesimally thin, so in topology there is no issue of a knot being tight.)
Strictly speaking, then, the string in Raymer and Smith's box was never knotted. But it was still a mess.
Previously on BB:
• Scientific study on why knots happen Link
• Many better ways to tie your shoes Link
• Ideal knots spun in 3D Link
It’s the end of an era, sort of: Fraunhofer IIS, the developers of the MP3 audio compression format, announced that they are ceasing their licensing program. In a blog post, spokesman Matthias Rose says that it’s had a good 20-year run and is obsolete. But it’s also true that the decoding patents expired last year, […]
Freddy deBoer writes that he’s been telling the same joke for years about Silicon Valley’s only product, which might be universalized as “At last, a way to verb with nouns on the internet!” But the social-media techopoly is stable, now, and so the venture capitalists have moved on to the three terrible trends that will […]
Alex Wood is an addict but won’t give up his smartphone. But he has five strategies for limiting its control over him: “I used to wake up tired. My body would ache and my head felt sore, like waking up with a hangover. Finally, I took control, like attending an AA class for addicts, I […]
Loot Crate is a subscription service that delivers a box of curated pop culture goods to your doorstep. To sample their geeky wares, you can order a single mystery box exclusively from the Boing Boing Store.Each month Loot Crate sends you 6-7 unique items and apparel, including collectibles, books, and t-shirts. Pulling inspiration from all […]
Yes, yes there is. The ultraportable Twisty Glass Mini boasts all of the simplicity of its forebear, while fitting just a little bit better in your pocket.The Mini is perfect for casual smokers, and anyone who doesn’t have the patience or fine motor skill for rolling papers. This piece keeps the convenient design of its older […]
Learning to code is a perfect way to grow your technical sophistication, and open up a host of new career options. But since most “learn to code” initiatives focus heavily on web development, it can be tough to find good resources for general-purpose computer science outside of a 4-year degree program. To get a broad […]