Fri 5 Oct 2007
During my morning drive-by through the Internet, I discovered that scientists have at last turned their attention to figuring out how it is that strings go about getting themselves tangled in knots.
You know. How is it that you can put a silver chain in a jewelry box, close the door, and return in two days to find it wildly entwined with every other object in there?
At this moment, as I’m typing, I am watching the cord of my iPod, which is lying innocently on the couch next to me, in a nice straight line. I know, however, that when I leave the room to go make a cup of tea, it will begin to wriggle itself into a knot–and by the time I wake up in the morning and need it to come along with me to the gym, it will be in a hopeless tangle. That happens every single day.
Apparently scientists are as fed up with this nonsense from inanimate objects as the rest of us. They finally decided to get to the bottom of it. How the hell can a thing knot itself up into a thousand tangles without humans even being in the room?
So they watched and waited and snuck up on strings, and discovered that these little rascals are using MOTION to do it. And as one scientist noted, it takes surprisingly little motion to encourage a string to start the little dance that weaves it in and out of another available string.
Okay, so he didn’t say the word ‘dance.’ Scientists aren’t ready yet to admit that objects are dancing while we’re not looking. But they did say, “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,” which I think surely means that the highly flexible string is certainly flexing itself around and around. Without, supposedly, a life force to guide it.
I’m hoping that next they intend to go start watching socks.