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Researchers have discovered a new shape
April 24, 2014 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Researchers have discovered a shape previously unknown...to everyone except every single grade 4 kid who has played with rubber bands.
posted by odinsdream (43 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was not expecting that twist.
posted by mazola at 12:06 PM on April 24 [32 favorites]


I think this is why when I picked up the handset of my desk phone today the whole thing came with it and flew off the edge of the desk. Thanks a bunch Liu et al.
posted by biffa at 12:07 PM on April 24 [11 favorites]


Telephone cords. I used to hate this.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 12:07 PM on April 24 [16 favorites]



Telephone cords. I used to hate this.


OMG, so true. I try to explain this to kids these days and they just stare at me.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:18 PM on April 24 [1 favorite]


perversions have been observed in several physical systems

And the award for academic understatement of the year goes to Liu et al.
posted by The Bellman at 12:18 PM on April 24 [12 favorites]


THIS ACADEMIC ABSTRACT IS ALL ABOUT PERVERSIONS!!!

Really!
posted by Mister_A at 12:19 PM on April 24


So, if I mistakenly call one a helix, will some pedant say, "Mm, technically, that's a hemihelix consisting of two helices of opposite chirality joined by a perversion."
posted by ChuckRamone at 12:19 PM on April 24 [16 favorites]


I think you're allowed to strangle them with a telephone cord at that point.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:20 PM on April 24 [18 favorites]


My desk phone discovered these years ago. The problem is getting it to undiscover them.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:20 PM on April 24 [7 favorites]


Yeah, trying to show students the supercoiling of DNA using a bunched-up telephone cord is not what it used to be.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:32 PM on April 24 [1 favorite]


As a child, I spent hours trying to untangle the phone cord and its many perversions. I was trying to return it to some pristine, non-perverted state, a state that it may never have enjoyed to begin with, a state they may have existed only in my mind.
posted by Mister_A at 12:33 PM on April 24 [4 favorites]


Mister A: you can totally undo it, you just need to work it down coil by coil to either end and your phone cord is back to normal.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:37 PM on April 24


Just this morning my shoelaces got perverted up in my bike chain.
posted by Think_Long at 12:37 PM on April 24


"...two helices of opposite chirality joined by a perversion..."

Reminds me of my wedding ceremony...
posted by chasing at 12:43 PM on April 24 [24 favorites]


yea, you have to hold the cord close to the base and dangle the handset down so it can spin freely. Then you just let it spin until it sorts itself out, while your co-workers look at you as though you are insane.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:45 PM on April 24 [1 favorite]


If I were a shape I'd be a hemihelix with multiple perversions.
posted by mazola at 12:45 PM on April 24


Perversion: the glue that binds us all.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:47 PM on April 24 [1 favorite]


two helices of opposite chirality joined by a perversion

These were our vows! On preview: Damn you, chasing.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:50 PM on April 24 [3 favorites]


the key phrase for me is really "A recent, simple experiment using elastomer strips reveals..."
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:51 PM on April 24 [1 favorite]


Also balsa airplanes with rubber band props- when you started getting these, you were halfway done winding.
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:51 PM on April 24 [15 favorites]


I'm thinking this also may be the breakthrough in the ongoing mystery of why I can never get a garden hose to coil up in a consistent pile of circles.
posted by Curious Artificer at 12:59 PM on April 24 [2 favorites]


"Researchers have discovered a new shape" is a funny way to describe this finding. That sentence sounds to me like saying "researchers have discovered a new number between 7 and 8." Before clicking on the link, I tried to imagine what the claim might mean. I guessed that it referred to a shape in a newly constructed geometry, but nope, this is perfectly Euclidean. The discovery is really more about how hemihelices develop from helices than it is a discovery about the shape of the hemihelix itself.
posted by painquale at 1:03 PM on April 24 [4 favorites]


a hemihelix with multiple perversions (bottom)

Bottoms!
posted by chavenet at 1:11 PM on April 24


Research also discovered the cord detangler.
posted by GuyZero at 1:29 PM on April 24


I don't spin my handset, I just unplug the cord, detangle, and replug it in. Work phones may be the last refuge of cords.

The post is neat, though mostly over my head. I gather that they did a lot of simulations to discover the exact points at which such twisty perversions occur and how they vary. Which will be extremely useful to some scientific endeavor at some point (they mention wool; maybe they can find a way to prevent pilling) even if it makes my brain hurt.
posted by emjaybee at 1:38 PM on April 24 [2 favorites]


This paper has obviously been met with a torus of approval
posted by Flashman at 1:59 PM on April 24 [5 favorites]


Curious Artificer: "I'm thinking this also may be the breakthrough in the ongoing mystery of why I can never get a garden hose to coil up in a consistent pile of circles"

What you are talking about is caused by the hose being twisted incorrectly along its axis when coiling. Kinking of the hose is usually caused by inadequate untwisting when uncoiling. (google). I'm not sure if you were just joking, but I think it is actually related to the topic of this paper.

I coiled a lot of hose, rope and cable by hand in the Navy.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 2:34 PM on April 24 [1 favorite]


"Researchers have discovered a new shape" is a funny way to describe this finding.

Right, this is more of a "Researchers have analysed a shape previously not studied in detail".
posted by narain at 3:28 PM on April 24


I was only semi-joking, ArgentCorvid; I thought it might actually be a related topic.
posted by Curious Artificer at 3:32 PM on April 24


Does no one realize though that after you work one of those perversions out of a coily-cord, the portion below the site of the previously existing perversion, though now coiling in the correct direction, lays flatter than the portion above? Used to drive me crazy; I was convinced there was no way to get a coily-cord back to really, really normal.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 4:08 PM on April 24 [2 favorites]


Incidentally, the answer to how to coil a hose or rope with no twists (my preferred method anyway) is to lay loops of hose over, say, the garden hose holder, so that the bottom of one coil is to the left then the bottom of the next coil is to the right, etc. Hard to explain, but works beautifully.

Imagine coils of 2X diameter to what you would normally do, then folded in half over the hook.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 4:13 PM on April 24


Related: you've been coiling wires, hoses and cables wrong.
posted by odinsdream at 4:23 PM on April 24 [2 favorites]


That kind of researcher tends to skip fourth grade. And fifth. And sixth....
posted by IndigoJones at 5:04 PM on April 24


Just unplug the phone cord from the base, hold the handset up in the air, and gently tug down on the cord. It will unwind itself - when it's finished, plug it back into the base.
/advice from 1994
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:13 PM on April 24


Yeah the solution to the hose problem is the ole "over/under" coil. Ive done cables hundreds of feet long that uncoiled into one beautiful cable with no snarls.
posted by nevercalm at 6:37 PM on April 24


the portion below the site of the previously existing perversion, though now coiling in the correct direction, lays flatter than the portion above?

Hairdressing techniques to the rescue: unplug and unwind the cord as Baby_Balrog advises and then at spot where the wrong twist was, tighten the coil in the direction of its natural curve. Hold it that way for a minute or so, then release (finger wave). Repeat until target coil is the same diameter as the other coils. If the coil is too small, run a pencil through the coils and tighten the target coils and adjacent coils onto the pencil, hold the coils in place with a rubber band or tape and leave overnight (roller set).
posted by jamaro at 7:58 PM on April 24


I made an iron(mild steel) poker with this shape...... Mmmmmmm iron
posted by mrgroweler at 8:44 PM on April 24


I could almost swear I saw this once on MacGyver.
posted by homunculus at 10:34 PM on April 24


As a lawyer, I used to do a lot of fraught negotiations by telephone - but then I cut the spiral telephone cord, gave it a half-twist and glued it back together as a Möbius strip. Now I know that the person I'm calling and me are on the same side.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:29 PM on April 24 [3 favorites]


For those who remember, lest they forget.

Many more here.
posted by marienbad at 2:04 AM on April 25


"to everyone except every single grade 4 kid who has played with rubber bands"

Thank you for saying that. The first thing I thought when I saw this bounce around the intertubes yesterday is this very thing.

Thanks to the researchers for describing it with math, but this is not a new structure....by a long shot.
posted by BearClaw6 at 8:46 AM on April 25


you can totally undo it, you just need to work it down coil by coil to either end and your phone cord is back to normal.

You can't work to either end, lest you end up with an entire cord that's been artificially forced into the wrong chirality. One way will come easier than the other; go that way.
posted by flabdablet at 4:09 PM on April 25


This week at work I am measuring the leak rate through a valve with water.

I have a transparent flexible plastic hose going to a collection bucket so that I can monitor gross leakage changes. the leakage going into the hose is very small, but in a continuous, constantly changing stream that spirals around, clinging to the inside wall. A some points in the stream, it changes chirality, and makes loops like everyone is familiar with.

The crazy thing is that it changes continuously; the spiral will be all one direction, and then suddenly it will decide to flip and go the other direction, then it will change again and straighten out.

I should try to get video of this.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:03 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


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