Exprexxo Thoughts

There are no S's in Exprexxo!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Knotty Thoughts

    For years I have been tortured by knots. Be it my shoelace, the headphones, or the long extension cord.  When I go to use one of these, I am delayed by the WORK it takes to remove the knot.  When I realize the garden hose will not reach the garden due to a bevy of knots, I usually exclaim "How is that possible?!   When my kid says, "Dad can you help me ?" and hands me knotty headset cable, I will often retort "What is the probability of that wad of knots?".  They now all laugh back in my geeky style and say "At the moment,  100, Dad".

   The interesting thing is, I have spent my life thinking a straight sting, cable, wire, hose, rope, cord is the simplest arrangement of these things and thereby inferring that the knotty configurations where the complex more difficult arrangement.  All the while not noticing the WORK I was doing to detangle, unknot, unbind these way too common structures.  I wonder how much time (WORK) I have spent de-knotting over my life?  I wonder how much, more organized people then me, have spent keeping such things straight to prevent knots.  If you work in a cable business, knot prevention has to be a huge priority.

   By now, if you remember your physics, you have guessed what I finally realized:  knots are the lower energy state of a string, and I have be WORKING to undue entropy and return these long lines of bounded atoms to their higher energy state.  More organized people do this WORK more proactively and more incrementally but they too are combating entropy.   

   This let me jump to bigger concepts, abet, smaller objects.   Long ago my family had a 20ft corded phone.  This was so you could listen to someone go on about their life while sitting on the couch watching TV.     The cord went from the hand set to the base which was mounted on the wall.  The cord was in the form of a helix to prevent it from twisting into a knot.  But after many trips to the couch by several different people, all not wanting to detangle the cord while talking on the phone, we would get the most amazing balls of cord knots you can imagine.   I wish I had a image to show you of those but phones did not have cameras built into them back then.  
  Of course this leads me to DNA. I love the knotty behavior of DNA.  That there is a three meter long knotty string of information stuffed in to all of your cells is amazing, fantastical, and in my old way of thought impossible because it would tale too much WORK to knot up a 3 meter thread in to a ball so small it could fit into one of our cells which is so small we can not even see them?    But now I understand.  If a 20ft helix phone cord was used in someone's living room for a billion years with no one unwinding it, you would have to keep the handset on the cradle to talk be cause it would have wound down into something the size of  tennis ball.    Of course there has to be some great theory about this that has be documented in some journal out there that I am completely ignorant of.    It probably has some beautiful but unreadable formula that shows that the size of the smallest full knot state is based on the length of the string, the diameter of the string, how many times the sting moves, the angles the string is bend over.........   Now I get it: DNA is the lowest energy state possible for storing that much information in a line!   Makes sense because life can not spend a lot of energy keeping its information stored or else it would die.   So if millions of engines storing millions of bits of data need to keep going for millions of years ( 100 years at a time) of course the information is stored at the lowest possible energy state.  And if we humans discover our DNA is stored in tiny knots then we have strong evidence that knots are energy efficient way to keep everything about us.  

     Where this takes me is fun.   Now I look at a hose knotted up in the back yard and realize two things. One: it is stored very efficiently, not a lot of life effort has been spend continually looping a plastic sting. Two: the history of what has happened is stored in that knot, wife watered garden, son sprayed the trampoline, daughter sprayed friend.     Now I understand why by brain is so folded and bent and wiggly: perhaps it is a surface falling into knots. It is what a bedsheet looks like coming out of a dryer.  It's Amazing to think about a bed sheet made out of straight strings, as an analogy for a sheet of brains made up out of tiny knots of neuron stings.  I know I have over generalized this concept but then this is a brain-log(blog).   Sagan told me I am Star-stuff contemplating the stars.  With this blog, I am also knot-stuff contemplating knots.  When I die, the strings of my knots will sever and will decay into simple star-stuff atoms, no longer able to contemplate because of the loss of knots.

     The analogies that leap to mind are amazing.  Human created information storage systems do not have knots.  They are lots of lines.  Lots of WORK went into creating the lines of tape, sectors of disks, cells of memory as such they may be less efficient at storing information than DNA but DNA probably is less efficient a high speed reads and writes.   I imagine that the energy needed to unzip a knotted DNA and combine with another knot must be relatively high. There certainly is a lot of energy spent at the higher order efforts to get the two DNA strings in the same place ;-)

    Now that I have spent a couple hours straitening out all those thoughts, I will return to my normal knotty thoughts.