dglobalnews.com Why Do Shoelaces Get Untied By Themselves? Science Explains, Untangles Knot Mystery
Published: Thu, April 13, 2017
Research | By Kayla Price

Why Do Shoelaces Get Untied By Themselves? Science Explains, Untangles Knot Mystery

Why Do Shoelaces Get Untied By Themselves? Science Explains, Untangles Knot Mystery

Amazingly, the USA researchers are not the first to examine how shoelaces come undone.

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Mechanical engineers from UC Berkeley studied the problem in a series of experiments that involved filming one of their colleagues with a slow-motion camera as she ran on a treadmill. The knot stretches and then relaxes in response to that force.

At the same time, as the knot loosens, the swinging of the laces that occurs as the leg moves forwards and backwards causes an inertial force to be applied on the free ends of the laces, pulling the already-loosened knot apart. The engineers tested two knots - the square knot and the "granny knot" - to ensure researchers could study at least one of the knots unraveling, and attached accelerometers to see how much force was applied to the knots as the engineer walked.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, made a decision to find the answer, which was published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A. Graduate student Christine Gregg, a co-author of the study and also a runner, got on treadmill while her colleagues filmed her shoes.

The combined forces from legs swinging and feet pounding the pavement create a ideal lace-loosening storm, scientists report April 12 in Proceedings of the Royal Society A. The new results, he says, provide "a strong first step" toward such an understanding.

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We know all too well that few things are more embarrassing than tripping over your own laces - but that hardly makes knot tying worthy of scientific inquiry.

Scientists have discovered an "invisible hand" constantly working against the knot in your shoelaces. If you loop the bunny knots together the same direction that you tied the first knot together, that's a weak knot. The following upswing of your leg as you take the next step pulls down on the flapping lace ends to essentially slowly untie your shoe. Well it seems that might not be the case, as according to researchers at The University of Berkeley the typical "granny" knot many of us use to tie our shoelaces is more prone to coming undone than another, no more complex, method. "We have the shape, how it's tied", said Daily-Diamond.

The study "is proving the fact that the granny knot is a loser and the square knot is the way to go", knot theorist Colin Adams of Williams College tells USA Today.

The fact that you can take two loose ends and tie them in a way that is strong and a way that is weak in itself is a fascinating foray into the world of gripping structures.

"But we still do not understand why there's a fundamental mechanical difference", he added, leaving another knotty mystery to be solved. While different types of knots have varying levels of effectiveness, these researchers believe that they all fail the same way. Daily-Diamond, Gregg and senior author Oliver O'Reilly detailed their findings online April 12 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

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