Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Rope trick calculated," by Philip Ball. Nature Science Update, 21 May 2003.

Chris Leech, a researcher with a rope and fiber company, has analyzed the geometry of certain rope-splicing techniques. The first line in this online article gives the basic information about splicing: "Friction is the key to every splice." If there is not enough friction, the splice won't hold, and if there is too much, the rope will break. Ball writes that one technique, called "the Admiralty splice," is strong enough to support up to 96% of the load carried by a single rope. The splicing methods analyzed differ in the way outer strands are interwoven around the central strands, which results in different kinds of frictional force holding the spliced pieces together. The research is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society: Mathematical, Physical & Engineering Sciences.

--- Mike Breen