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Knotted Walks

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Author:Ivars Peterson (MathTrek)
Description: Given that it normally takes some effort to create a knot, the spontaneous formation of knots in ropes and strings can appear rather puzzling. Having no obvious explanation of the effect, frustrated users can't help but acknowledge this knotting phenomenon as just another manifestation of Murphy's Law: If something can go wrong, it will. In this case, "if a rope can become knotted, it will." Scientists typically dismiss the attention given to such occurrences as little more than a consequence of selective memory for when things go wrong. However, Robert A.J. Matthews, a science writer and a computer science researcher at Aston University in Birmingham, England, takes a decidedly different view. "The awful truth is that many of the most famous manifestations of Murphy's Law actually do have a basis in fact," he insists.

Levels: Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12), College
Languages: English
Resource Types: Articles
Math Topics: Probability, Knot Theory

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