Physicists tied up in knots

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The Independent Online
IT TOOK more than a century for the guardians of male sartorial elegance to arrive at four distinct ways of tying a knot in a neck-tie. It took two Cambridge physicists a couple of months to come up with six more.

Not since the 1930s when the Duke of Windsor introduced the knot named after him has Savile Row been so spoilt for choice in the neck-tie department.

A scientific approach to the problems of wrapping a man's most useless item of clothing around his neck has found that there are 85 ways of tying a knot in it - but only 10 are any good.

The six new knots are not yet named and the inventors, Thomas Fink and Yong Mao of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, are unsure if they can claim patent rights. They employed the analytical techniques they had developed as theoretical physicists to deconstruct the rules of tie- making into a set of mathematical formulae, described in the journal Nature.

The new knots range in simplicity from a knot made of four movements to a 10-move nightmare. Dr Fink, 27, a New Yorker, was yesterday wearing one of his own creations, a "seven over two"- about half as wide as the full Windsor knot. "Tying a knot is like a random walk with your hands. You're making a sequence of movements from one region to another," he said.