Monday, October 22, 2007

The Science of Knots

Tillerman is talking about it, and the Laser Forum has a post discussing it...but scientists have already figured it out. Apparently it doesn't matter whether you use the Rooster mainsheet or the new Bzzz line, even mathematically simulated strings form knots without much provocation.

The best knotting came from very flexible, long string contained in a large box. "A highly flexible string placed in a very large container will have a higher probability of becoming knotted than a stiff one that's confined in a smaller container," Smith told LiveScience.

The researchers suggest that cramped quarters limit the tumbling motion that facilitates the string weaving through the coils. That would explain why knots were less likely to form in smaller compared with larger boxes.

But in real life, most people don't tumble cords and wires on a daily basis. Smith explained that while this tumbling is not a requirement for knots to form, some motion is necessary.

"Surprisingly little disturbance or motion is even needed," Smith said. "It's quite easy for something to get knotted." Even the act of picking up the phone and placing it back down could be enough jostling to trigger knot formation.

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.

It sounds like a tumbling motion is what causes the worst problems...not good news for rope that is sitting in the washing machine that is a Laser cockpit.

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