Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have unraveled the enduring mystery of why shoelaces seem to constantly disentangle themselves from each other, which, while not Earth-shaking, may influence how you walk on it.
The team spent more than two years studying "dynamic untying" as they called it, testing different varieties of the typical bow knot.
They walked and ran countless miles on Berkeley streets, then even more on a treadmill. With a slow-motion camera, they captured and duplicated the motion and forces that slowly break and pull apart even the strongest knots.
So no, it is not a matter of human error. It's physics.
The researchers hope to apply their findings to the activity of more complicated knots, which could include knots used in surgical sutures, on boats, and in mountaineering. But knots also exist at a microscopic level: DNA knots and unknots when it creates copies of itself, for example. Scientists are already exploiting these properties to create drugs that can slow tumor growth.