Monday, October 1, 2007

Size Matters

How long is a piece of string? The knots in it could be a clue.
Dorian Raymer, a biophysicist at the University of California, San Diego, often found himself with unwanted tangles. "Headphones in my backpack would inevitably come out knotted," he says, and he wanted to know why. Though there is a branch of mathematics called knot theory, it doesn't explain the probability that a particular piece of string will knot when it is tumbled about, so Raymer and colleague Douglas Smith devised a series of experiments to find out.
They dropped pieces of string of various lengths into a 30-centimetre cubic box and spun it around for 10 seconds. They then took digital images and used a computer to help identify the knots that formed.
The shortest string to become knotted was 46 centimetres long. Strings 1.5 metres long formed a knot about half the time... more>>(via New Scientist)

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