h/t Lew Rockwell: http://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/string-theory/

Mystery unravelled: Headphones can form 120 'complex knots' in your pocket because loose ends weave through coiled strands
Sarah Griffiths (19 June 2014)
  • Physicists tumbled a string in a box 3,415 times to investigate tangling
  • They used a computer simulation to identify 120 different types of knots
  • The loose ends of a string or headphone wire weaves through coils that tend to form in confined spaces 'within seconds'
  • Study of knotting is of interest in mathematics and in DNA biochemistry
Confirming what music fans have thought since they got their first Walkman, it takes just seconds for headphones to tangle inside a bag or pocket.

Using computer simulations, a team of physicists have unravelled exactly why the wires get so tangled, so quickly - and it’s all to do with coils.

When shaken up, the wires form coils and the loose end weaves though the other strands, creating the annoying knots.

Experts from the University of California, San Diego, investigated the probability of knotting, the type of knots formed and the dependence on string length in their study.

Dorian Rayner and Douglas Smith confirmed that ‘complex knots often form within seconds’ and that stiffer wires are slightly less likely to form such mind-boggling tangles.

The physicists ‘tumbled’ a string inside a box to prove knots form in seconds.

They then used a mathematical knot theory to analyse them - instead of getting bad tempered and pulling at them indiscriminately, which is a popular method for untangling headphones.

They analysed digital photos of the string at different points of knotting and found that almost all the weaves were identified as ‘prime knots.'

[... continued at link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencete...d-strands.html]