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Monday, October 06, 2014

The Math of Whips, Chains and Ropes

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What kind of discipline involves the study of whips, chains and ropes? reports James Gorman, science reporter for The New York Times.

Wrong. And shame on you.

The answer is applied mathematics, with a concentration on the physics of what experts call viscous threads and elastic rods.

Researchers in that area of study try to describe, mathematically, the flow of chain in a fountainlike arc out of a beaker, the cracking of a bullwhip — or the Flat Rope trick, one of the easiest examples of what a trick roper can do with a lasso.

Photo: New York Time 

Pierre-Thomas Brun, now an instructor in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who just published "An Introduction to the Mechanics of the Lasso" in Proceedings of the Royal Academy A, was pointed toward the subject by his adviser.

Dr. Brun was looking for a topic for his dissertation, and one of his advisers at the University of Paris, Neil M. Ribe, pointed out that very little had been done on the lasso.

His other adviser, Basile Audoly, shared the 2006 Ig Nobel prize in physics for a study of the way dry spaghetti breaks. The Ig Nobels are given in celebration of humor, usually unintended, in scientific research. Both advisers were co-authors, with Dr. Brun, of the lasso report.
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Related link 
Video by David Frank on Publish Date October 6, 2014.

Source: New York Time