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Spontaneous knotting of an agitated string

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Spontaneous knotting of an agitated string, D. M. Raymer and D. E. Smith, PNAS , 2007

It is a fact familiar from every day life that jostled strings tend to form knots. This paper probes this phenomena experimentally by tumbling strings of various lengths and studying the statistics of the knots that form. 120 different types on knot, identified by their Jones polynomials, were observed in over 3000 trials. Remarkably nearly all these knots were prime. A simple model of the knotting process is also presented that qualitatively agrees with the observed distribution of knots and the knotting probability as a function of agitation time and the string length.

Rather unfairly, the authors were awarded this years ignoble prize in physics for this work.

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