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Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String - Dorian Raymer

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Uploaded on Dec 11, 2008

Dorian Raymer now works for CAMERA at Calit2 in San Diego, and recently won an ig Nobel Prize for this research that was done as a physics undergraduate at UC San Diego. The talk is part of a General Staff Meeting for the UCSD division of Calit2, which will also feature an update by division director Ramesh Rao, and a networking session from 3-3:30pm.

Raymer works on the Ocean Observatories Initiative, and made international headlines when he and UCSD physics professor Douglas Smith won an Ig Nobel Prize for Physics. They were cited for "proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots." This isn't the first big publicity for the study, which Raymer conducted as an undergraduate in Smith's lab. The work was featured by the BBC, and was also selected as one of the New York Times' Top Science Stories of 2007.

The research was originally published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last October. Pictured at right: digital photos of knots with computer-generated drawings based on mathematical calculations. (Click on image for hi-res photo; image courtesy Dorian Raymer.) Raymer initiated the experiment because he was interested in knot theory -- a branch of mathematics that uses formulae to distinguish unique knots -- because the theory has hardly been applied directly to the analysis and classification of real, physical knots.

And if you're wondering what the Ig Nobel Prizes are, they honor "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative -- and spur people's interest in science, medicine and technology." The prizes are organized by the magazine Annals of Improbable Research.

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