Why Are Your Headphones Always in a Knot?

Why Are Your Headphones Always in a Knot?

Thanks to Skillshare for supporting this episode
of SciShow. [♩INTRO] Sometimes, headphones are just the worst. It seems like every time I want to whip out
my earbuds and go for a run, I’m stuck untangling a huge knotted mess. I swear I try to keep them organized, but
nothing seems to work. Believe it or not, scientists have studied
this phenomenon before or at least something like it. And they’ve found that pieces of string
naturally form knots within seconds of being agitated. So clearly, there’s a reason I’m not the
only one suffering from headphone tangles. But better yet, these findings also point
to a solution that just might end our days of untangling
cords once and for all. The knotty experiment dates back to 2007, when a physics professor at UCSD and a lucky
undergraduate decided to find out exactly how strings make
a mess of themselves. They dropped strings of various lengths and
stiffnesses into a plastic box, which they then spun at various speeds and
for various amounts of time. Using a computer, then they meticulously cataloged
the types of knots, if any, that resulted, using a branch of mathematics
called knot theory to guide them. Knot theory has all sorts of applications,
from physics to biology, but it’s also good for just understanding
how and why stuff gets tangled up. In knot theory, knots are always studied as
closed loops, so after the strings in this experiment got
jumbled, the two ends were tied together to form a
circle. From these basic experiments, which included
more than 3400 test drops, the duo discovered a couple of things, like
the fact that it doesn’t take much to get a knot. In just 10 seconds, with 10 rotations, about
half of the strings formed knots. So don’t beat yourself up, knots just happen. Strangely, these knots were almost all big,
single knots what mathematicians call prime knots instead of strings with two knots, say, at
either end, which they call composite knots. Without doing the experiment, researchers
would have assumed both types were possible. But instead, they tended to tie themselves
up the same way, over and over. First, they’d coil up, creating some loops. Then some of the overlapping strands would
work their way across one another, forming a kind of braid. Depending on the number of crossings, which
happened as many as 11 times, the knots could get very complex. So we know these knots happen, and how, but is there any hope for those of us plagued
by headphone tangles? Well, the researchers noticed that the chance
of a knot forming generally went up if the string was longer in length, or spun
for a longer length of time. But if it was spun too fast, the strings weren’t
allowed to tumble, and the probability of a knot went down. Stiffer string also decreased knot potential. Giving the string less space by reducing the
box size also made it much harder for the knots to form. Weirdly, not enough space is also the reason doctors think umbilical cord knots are very
rare the amniotic sac is just too tiny for much
knotting to occur. So, your math-approved way of avoiding tangled
earbuds is to just tuck them away in a tiny space, ideally wrapping them around something so
they can’t jiggle at all. And if all that doesn’t work, well, maybe
next time you can just marvel at the wonderful complexity
of your knot instead. Who knew knots were so amazing? I bet you did, if you’re a knitter. It’s already starting to get cold where
I live in Montana, so it’s definitely hat and scarf season. If you’re ready to snuggle indoors and try
out a new craft, you can knit yourself a scarf in Davina Choy’s
Knitting Basics class on Skillshare. You’ll learn several basic techniques and
how to troubleshoot common mistakes. And at the end, you’ll have a cozy neck! Right now Skillshare is offering SciShow viewers
two months of unlimited access to over 20,000 creative
and technical classes for free. Follow the link in the description to check
out Davina Choy’s classes as well as thousands of others. [♩OUTRO]

100 thoughts on “Why Are Your Headphones Always in a Knot?

  1. Skillshare is offering SciShow viewers two months of unlimited access to Skillshare for free! https://skl.sh/scishow15

    Check out Davina Choy's knitting basics class: https://www.skillshare.com/classes/Knitting-I-Learn-the-Basics-with-a-Simple-Scarf/495264189

  2. I don't like these comments about saying "Just get bluetooth/wireless:", as this applies to all cables and wires, such as charging cables, that mass of cables behind your television unit, it applies to all. Also that not everyone has $50 odd dollars to buy a decent pair of BT earphones, also bluetooth has issues that wired doesn't have, like interference which is common in crowded places, as well as that wired is always higher quality for the price. BT also has the battery, which deteriorates over time and to that point, there is only so much you can fit it an earphone shell, that can sacrifice driver quality and size.

    (Also I am surprised at the lack of knot jokes, the nsfw kind)

  3. Here’s my advice:
    •make the “i love you” sign with your hand 🤟 . make sure the two upright fingers are splayed out to the side a bit.
    •place the headphones so the earpieces are against your palm and the cord travels up between the two middle folded down fingers
    •wrap the cord around the two upright fingers in a figure 8 shape
    •relax the upright fingers so there’s room to remove the cord
    •take the headphones off you hand and shove it in a pocket
    It basically never knots like this.

  4. Is it only me? The topics or questions here in scishow are really interesting & u really wanna know the answers, but once the video ends I'm still clueless. Do they just play with words?

  5. There's a technique called the "Roadie Wrap," that keeps cords from getting damaged, warped, or tangled. I use it for my headphones, and almost never have any issues XD

  6. Yes, but what about things like computer cords that are plugged in on both ends, but lay beneath your feet? Even if they move around, they should not be allowed to loop around one another, yet somehow they do with an eventual knot forming.

  7. If you tie the ear bud wire close to the ear buds together yourself, in a simple knot that you can untie, the rest of the cord wont make unorganized knots.

  8. why didn't you mention the figure 8 method that reduces the probability of getting knots?
    https://youtu.be/buVUvnM_AzU (at 1:45)

  9. I’m so disappointed that this video didn’t have Hank say, “Knots! Why are they always in knots?!” like in 17 rants in 4 minutes.

  10. Theres a solution… wrap your headphones in a figure 8 instead of a circle.
    True story, look it up if you dont believe me.

  11. I find that my earphones are less likely to get tangled when they're in my pencil case than when they're in my backpack. I didn't know that there was so much science behind knots.

  12. Physics girl has a solution to reduce the number of tangles in your headphones by twisting them in a figure 8 around your fingers.


  13. why nobody hangs the wires, i know its doesnt work while travel but at least my ear phones are always straight if i need them at home

  14. Scraping the barrel a bit now guys. How come you won't answer my questions about what types of food (roasting, pressure cooking etc) preserves nutrients but you put out this useless random stuff?

  15. Life hack:
    Tie the ends of your cord or string together before putting them away to be free of most types of knots.
    Knotting occurs when the ends start criss crossing over the cords, if the ends are tied then the loop cannot properly braid, to undo the coil, just hold the cord at the tied end and jiggle the cord gently, it should easily open

  16. The same effect can be replicated in a DMR mini washing machine with Vests and briefs if you spin it 10times with water

  17. Not only that, but FLAT cables virtually never tangle, the probability goes astronomically low compared to normal rounded cables.

  18. Roll your cable into a circle. Use a twist tie at the side where the two ends are. Take 5 seconds out of your life to manage your cables and it won't happen.

  19. 1:35 That left one isn’t a knot at all; it looks like a trefoil, but the crossings aren’t quite right, so it would just turn into an unknotted loop if you pulled it.

  20. They need to redo the study. People don't put headphones in a box then spin around in a circle. You'd think someone smart enough to use obscure branches of mathematics would be smart enough to have used a small sack (emulating a pocket) and moved it back and forth, up and down, and in a circle only every now and then. That would have been just as easy and far more accurate and would have, very likely, given different results. They could have just put headphones in their pocket and walked the same exact pattern every time as well. Keeping the pants and walking pattern the same to remove any variables.

  21. Turn the wire as you coil it into the coil and it rests perfectly flat…like you do with a garden hose…Im sure that there are some physics equations already out there that explain why and how this works and how much turn per revolution with regards to to thickness of the length of whatever is being coiled to arrive at the most efficient and effective circumference to keep it lying flat and not roll unto itself….etc…Or are you talking about how people are just lazy and expect something to just remain untangled even though it’s plainly obvious that unless rigid, crossings and intercrossings are bound to crisscross in non linear fashion as to make tangles? And some scientists performed experiments to see why the obvious happened? Sheesh

  22. Easiest fix: 1) keep the “ear buds” ends together with a clip (on some iPhone cables) so it is 1 string vs “Y” string and 2) roll up from audio end in the center with buds on the outside of coil. That DRASTICALLY minimizes knots and eases unraveling.

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