Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Major Advances In Knot Theory

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the if-it's-not-theory-then-it-must-be-practice dept.

Math 230

An anonymous reader sends us to Science News, which is running a survey of recent strides in finding an answer to the age-old question: How many ways are there to tie your shoelaces? "Mathematicians have been puzzling over that question for a century or two, and the main thing they've discovered is that the question is really, really hard. In the last decade, though, they've developed some powerful new tools inspired by physics that have pried a few answers from the universe's clutches. Even more exciting is that the new tools seem to be the tip of a much larger theory that mathematicians are just beginning to uncover. That larger mathematical theory, if it exists, may help crack some of the hardest mathematical questions there are, questions about the mathematical structure of the three- and four-dimensional space where we live. ... Revealing the full ... superstructure may be the work of a generation."

cancel ×

230 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

That may be interesting to knot theorists (0)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 5 years ago | (#25596855)

but I'd hardly call it an age old question. Never heard of it.

Re:That may be interesting to knot theorists (4, Funny)

ciaohound (118419) | more than 5 years ago | (#25596997)

e can't be serious.

Re:That may be interesting to knot theorists (2, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597183)

You wouldn't believe what just thinking about this is doing to my stomach...

knot theory (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597015)

Prior to developing his fully inflated knot, the Dog will exhibit various signs of extreme, sexual, excitement. He will pace. Lick. Whimper. Mount. Thrust. At any time during such processes as these, the Dog may Ejaculate clear fluid. Is he " Cumming "? No. He is Ejaculating. His body is pumping fluids, said to be natural lubricants, from his penis. This action appears to have no visable bearing on his Mental / physical / nervous / spiritual disposition at all. He's not particularly enjoying this addendum to the proceedings. He's probably not aware it's happening.

After about five seconds of fucking, you may notice the Knot making itself evident. If you are somehow able to manage to whitness this with a reasonably clear head, you may stop to be amazed at how rapidly everything expands? THIS is the Dogs Orgasm taking place, in manifest form. The physical sign that his mind is blowing. So, for certain, will his dick now be.

Re:That may be interesting to knot theorists (2, Informative)

i.of.the.storm (907783) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597109)

Funny thing, last year I competed in the Stanford Math Tournament and one of the rounds involved knot theory. http://sumo.stanford.edu/smt/ [stanford.edu] but for some reason they don't have that round in their list of problems, but these are the solutions: http://sumo.stanford.edu/smt/2008/Solutions/power-soln.pdf [stanford.edu] .

Re:That may be interesting to knot theorists (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597611)

Uh, look up the "Homeomorphism problem". It is the central question of one of the unifying mathematical theories -- topology.

Re:That may be interesting to knot theorists (4, Funny)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597681)

but I'd hardly call it an age old question. Never heard of it.

Does that mean you're knot interested in it?

An easy answer (5, Funny)

$0.02 (618911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25596895)

How many ways are there to tie your shoelaces? The answer is very easy ... knot.

How many ways are there to tie your shoelaces? (3, Insightful)

poached (1123673) | more than 5 years ago | (#25596897)

42

Re:How many ways are there to tie your shoelaces? (1, Funny)

TheABomb (180342) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597113)

And there goes another perfectly good universe down the tubes.

Re:How many ways are there to tie your shoelaces? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597353)

About two trillion actually...

http://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/2trillionmethods.htm

Re:How many ways are there to tie your shoelaces? (5, Funny)

gsgriffin (1195771) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597509)

Its actually 84. You forgot that you can always double-knot each of them too.

Re:How many ways are there to tie your shoelaces? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25598097)

how the fuck is 42 insightful? its funny when you read it in that book, but seeing it here again and again is not even funny any more, let alone insightful

How many ways are there to tie your shoelaces? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25596931)

Knot many.

This is so very important... (-1, Troll)

sgage (109086) | more than 5 years ago | (#25596947)

... as the world goes down the toilet. Let us ponder how many ways there are to tie our shoes. When we're done with that, we can contemplate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Indeed, after that, we can explore even weightier questions. E.g., does a bear shit in the woods? What is the sound of one hand clapping? If a tree falls... oh never mind.

Re:This is so very important... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25596977)

Hi there. You sound like you're concerned about the status of your 401(k). Or a panicky environmentalist.

Re:This is so very important... (-1, Offtopic)

sgage (109086) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597023)

Neither, Mr. AC, I'm simply a rational human being, a long-time member of the reality-based community. I have no 401(k). And it's way too late to panic about the environment - we will surely eat the planet before we face the facts.

Let me guess - you're a Republican.

Re:This is so very important... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597039)

You sound like you'd take the single most important^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h publicized problem of the day and have everyone working on it, ignoring all of the other interesting stuff that might be possible.

Yes, there are weighty problems in the world, and I'm not trying to dismiss them. Thinking about them exclusively, however, will recover the now but it won't provide any advancement for the future.

Let's do both.

Re:This is so very important... (5, Funny)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597333)

Let me introduce you to ^W.

It's a great tool for those writing pseudo-ironic posts who are, at the same time, concerned with the preservation of the valuable resource of ones and zeroes...

Re:This is so very important... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597659)

Let me introduce you to ^W.

Does that work as well as "Bush^h^h^h^h"?

Re:This is so very important... (4, Insightful)

abigor (540274) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597059)

The world has been in far worse situations than it's in now. The transient problems of immediate political and social realities shouldn't stop a few people from investigating nature's deep questions via science and mathematics.

Re:This is so very important... (-1, Troll)

sgage (109086) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597217)

"The world has been in far worse situations than it's in now."

Maybe, maybe not.

I don't care what anyone wants to investigate. Just saying that we have some rather larger fish to fry at the moment, and this seems sort of peripheral.

I can't believe I got moderated as a troll. Oh well.

I'm getting too old for this slashdot shit, I guess.

Re:This is so very important... (1)

fucket (1256188) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597245)

This is exactly why nobody asked you for permission to go about their lives.

Re:This is so very important... (-1, Offtopic)

sgage (109086) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597269)

What's your point? Did I ever say that anyone needed my permission for anything? Holy shit, people are damned brittle on slashdot this afternoon.

Re:This is so very important... (5, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597291)

I can't believe I got moderated as a troll

Why? You made a whiny, irrelevent complaint that dismisses the role of pure research in the larger advancement of our knowledge of how the universe works... the very sort of thing that always plays a role in advancing our ability to make more efficient use of energy, more realistic predictions about the behavior of complex systems, and more innovative technological use of things we think we have already fully, or most effectly exploited. This whole "the human race is incapable of doing two things at once" BS never ceases to amaze me. How do you even get out of bed in the morning? Make coffee... take a crap... which to do first? Gaah! I'm paralyzed! Which is the most important fish to fry?

In other words, you're scare mongering and - if we can assume you have a passable IQ which would suggest you might know better - clearly trolling. And, voila, you were thusly modded.

Re:This is so very important... (-1, Troll)

sgage (109086) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597355)

It was not whiny in any way.

It was not irrelevant in any way.

It did not dismiss the role of research.

I am not scare mongering.

I am not trolling.

A mere comment about priorities, relative importance of issues, and so forth. In any case, I was not the only one to make such a comment.

It is just incredible to me what people here have read into my comment that just isn't there.

You'd think I farted in church or something.

Re:This is so very important... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597481)

It was whiny, it was irrelevant (how did it relate to knot theory?), it did dismiss pure research -- as if pure research scientists should drop everything and join the war effort, it was scare mongering (as if the only thing we should be thinking about is politics and war)...

Lastly, it is the priorities you're whining about that are irrelevant.

Let politicians work on politics, soldiers work on war, and mathematicians work on math.

If you weren't whining about priorities and politics, then what on earth were you talking about?

Re:This is so very important... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597675)

While I agree research should not be dismissed as unimportant, especially research that appears to be panning out... I must suggest that questioning priorities at this juncture is most relevant.

Hundreds of thousands of innocents dying in the middle east because of corrupt politicians in the whitehouse..

More still dying every day..

Hundreds of billions being spent to do it..

Hundreds of billions more being paid to wealthy wallstreet cronies..

And the responsible politicians are still in power.

Not only that, but in a few days the nation will be choosing between two men both with countless ties to these same corrupt political networks.

The only solution is how everyone collectively votes, and seeing how close we are to the election, now is the time to think about it..

Seems we Americans are too busy pretending everything's OK and getting on with our lives to save this country and the rest of the world..

Re:This is so very important... (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597723)

Let politicians work on politics, soldiers work on war, and mathematicians work on math.

I have to say that I think current affairs would at least be more interesting if we had scientists work on politics and politicians work on research.

Re:This is so very important... (2, Funny)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597707)

This whole "the human race is incapable of doing two things at once" BS never ceases to amaze me. How do you even get out of bed in the morning? Make coffee... take a crap... which to do first? Gaah! I'm paralyzed! Which is the most important fish to fry?

Er... are you saying there's a way to take a crap and make coffee at the same time? I'm curious, but at the same time I don't think I want to know...

Re:This is so very important... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597937)

Er... are you saying there's a way to take a crap and make coffee at the same time? I'm curious, but at the same time I don't think I want to know...

It's really quite simple. You make sure the coffee machine and coffee are in reach of the toilet. Alternatively you wear a diaper. Personally I just brush my teeth while on the toilet since that gets me the efficiency boost without joining the kitchen and bathroom.

Re:This is so very important... (1)

mortonda (5175) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597943)

My coffee pot is on a timer so it's already brewing as I take care of other business. next?

Re:This is so very important... (2, Funny)

MrMarket (983874) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597511)

I'm getting too old for this slashdot shit, I guess.

+ 1 insightful

Re:This is so very important... (1)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597703)

Just saying that we have some rather larger fish to fry at the moment, and this seems sort of peripheral.

So, what's your suggestion? The math guys should stop their research and start stating their opinion about the unemployment and mortgage problems?

Maybe the whole /. would be peripheral using your way of thinking.

Re:This is so very important... (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597991)

Studying how to tie shoelaces is hardly what 'math guys' do. It's worthy of a slashdot article but I'll wager the article is written by a couple of students who'd had too much beer.

Re:This is so very important... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597129)

hi troll! I'm-a feed ya. Open up wide, now.

I'm not a neurosurgeon - I'm a computer geek, of sorts, so I program stuff. Does my programming stuff save lives? probably not.. it may make some people's lives easier, but that's about it. So would you tell me to go to medical school and study neurosurgery so I can do something important like save lives?
But when I'm doing that, I can't be fighting fires. I can't help people in personal financial turmoil. I can't provide shelter and food for those who need it. I can't aide those with unwanted pregnancies on how to deal with it (whatever their choice may be), and so forth and so on.

So why don't I go do what I do best, and I'll leave the people who know how to deal with "the world [going] down the toilet" deal with that? I'll do my part and not be a dumbass getting a house I can't really afford just because the bank tells me I can and offers me a lower rate than should be economically possible and other such moves.

But if you still hang on to your statement...
quit worrying about your documents and pictures and how to migrate them to newer systems - your personal documents are unlikely to be of particular significance or you would have submitted them for archival. If your documents go missing among millions of others that do survive for researchers to rummage through in a thousand years, it is no great loss. [slashdot.org]
quit worrying about your personal finances, there's millions more like you and there are far more important things to deal with than you having to relocate to a cheaper location [slashdot.org]
and, honestly, you waste your time disliking Bill Gates? Dislike Microsoft business practices if you want, but disliking the man isn't going to change anything - all it will get you is shits'n'giggles like the 'borg gates' icon on slashdot [slashdot.org] ... and so forth and so on.

But the most important thing altogether is that your post demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the subject of knot mathematics and the larger field of knot theory. It is almost equivalent to complaining about elliptical curve encryption because you believe there being nothing special about an ellipse, something you could do with pencil, string and 2 thumbtacks in elementary school.
( and no, elliptical curves have no direct relationship to ellipses - but elliptic integrals which form the basis of elliptical curves, do )

Re:This is so very important... (-1, Offtopic)

sgage (109086) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597175)

My post was not meant as a troll.

Your reply was word salad.

My documents are of no importance to anyone but me, as are yours.

You seem to be rather full of yourself.

Suppose you tell us all how solving this knotty problem will help anyone or anything.

Re:This is so very important... (5, Insightful)

Evanisincontrol (830057) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597323)

Suppose you tell us all how solving this knotty problem will help anyone or anything.

Let's pretend we're in the early 1700s. Leonhard Euler is writing the first ever paper on a field of study called Graph Theory. Simply put, he's figuring out answers to questions about how to arrange circles and lines. Meanwhile, there's fucking WARS going on (Polish succession is going on concurrent to writing this paper; Seven Years' war happens a couple decades later). There are goddamn wars on Euler's front door, and he's writing papers about lines and circles?! What a prick.

Oh, by the way, without Euler's work we wouldn't have computers, organized roads, efficient data models, efficient sorting algorithms, or countless other instruments that are critical to today's society.

Don't trivialize work that you don't understand.

Re:This is so very important... (1)

sgage (109086) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597379)

Without x, we would not have y, therefore it's all good.

Re:This is so very important... (3, Funny)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597581)

wow. mathematicians make such trigger-happy moderators.

modded troll in 3, 2, 1...

Re:This is so very important... (1)

sgage (109086) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597767)

My original post was actually meant to be funny, but... whoosh!

Re:This is so very important... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597559)

Don't trivialize work that you don't understand.

To further disabuse the OP of a misconceived notion, this isn't just "how many ways are there to tie your shoes". This is trying to work out a rational system of knot classification.

The key thing to realize is that knot theory applies to a lot more than untangling rope. If you use the right assumptions and definition, certain problems, which have nothing to do with rope, can be modeled as knot problems. If we could solve/simplify knot theory, we are this much closer to solving a range of related problems. None of which involve shoelaces.

Oh, and the GGP gave the OP a good example (by analogy): Elliptic curve cryptography. An elliptic curve is pretty esoteric stuff: "An elliptic curve is a smooth, projective algebraic curve of genus one, on which there is a specified point O. An elliptic curve is ... an abelian variety ... and O serves as the identity element." Must have seemed pretty pointless to other people when the first person worked on it. Yet, once the background theory was worked out, lo and behold, you can use them to make a pretty good encryption scheme! They were also key in proving Fermat's Last Theorem.

Re:This is so very important... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597567)

Oh, by the way, without Euler's work we wouldn't have computers, organized roads, efficient data models, efficient sorting algorithms, or countless other instruments that are critical to today's society.

Nobody else could have made the same discoveries? You have a citation, I assume?

Don't trivialize work that you don't understand.

Who fucking died and made you king?

Re:This is so very important... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25598103)

There's even better examples. Such as that of Einstein working on theoretical physics while a World War was going on around him. Yet it was his work (E=mc^2) that resulted in finialising of the end of the war (the hydrogen bomb).

Re:This is so very important... (1)

cromar (1103585) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597251)

+1 FUNNY

Re:This is so very important... (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597761)

I'm not a neurosurgeon - I'm a computer geek, of sorts, so I program stuff. Does my programming stuff save lives? probably not.. it may make some people's lives easier, but that's about it. So would you tell me to go to medical school and study neurosurgery so I can do something important like save lives?

You're a computer geek and NOT a neurosurgeon? Well then, I'm going to have to cancel my thursday appointment.

Re:This is so very important... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597437)

Wait... so you're posting on Slashdot, claiming people doing difficult math research are wasting time?

If you think there's something more important that they should do instead, maybe YOU should go do it. It may come as a surprise, but the rest of the world isn't here to serve you. You'll just have to live with the fact that other people do stuff that's important to them, and most of the time that doesn't overlap with what's important to you.

Re:This is so very important... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25598049)

Knot theory has plenty of potential applications that do not involve shoelaces. It is used in molecular biology, statistical mechanics, and particle physics as well as other branches of mathematics.

Unless... (4, Insightful)

Slur (61510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25596949)

Revealing the full... superstructure may be the work of a generation.

..assuming computers cease making any new advances.

Mathematicians do rely on their ability to spot patterns and sense implications that no computer can likely sift for today. But this will not always be the case.

Re:Unless... (2, Funny)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597131)

Yes, if we discover hard AI and experience a singularity then mathematicians will be obsolete. Of course, so will the rest of us. I'm still going in to work on Monday. How about you?

Re:Unless... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597907)

experience a singularity

That sounded dirty and sad at the same time..

Re:Unless... (1)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597359)

Actually, it is a theorem that computers are not enough to do maths.

Re:Unless... (1)

tylerni7 (944579) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597615)

That isn't quite true. I'm assuming you are thinking of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del's_incompleteness_theorems [wikipedia.org] and not some other very recent development, there is nothing that says a computer cannot do math/make proofs. Only that with a finite set of axioms, a computer (or a person) cannot prove an infinite number of things.

There really is no reason that a strong AI couldn't prove something a human could, and computer assisted proofs are already quite common, although that is different than a computer proving something on it's own.

Re:Unless... (1)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597751)

I was not thinking about GÃdels' incompleteness theorem. But we can use it too. One of the reasons GÃdel was so happy about that theorem is that it implies that (being imprecise...) no axiomatic system is sufficient to describe the integers. Therefore an axiomatic system (of the kind considered...) is never good enough to capture all the richness of behaviour of the integers.

Re:Unless... (1)

acheron12 (1268924) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598043)

The brain is a computer too.

Re:Unless... (1)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 5 years ago | (#25598135)

[citation needed] What you may have in mind is that one can build models of the brain which are formally computers. But I doubt you are claiming you know how the brain works... No one does so far!

Re:Unless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597449)

I wouldn't bet on it. People have been saying computers will get smarter since computers existed. It hasn't happened. The most they've been used for in math is brute force checking of ideas.

QED (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25596963)

Loop and Swoop
Bunny Ears

Where's my Nobel

!theory (5, Funny)

russlar (1122455) | more than 5 years ago | (#25596979)

So, can we abbreviate this "knot theory" to "!theory"?

Re:!theory (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597005)

I trow knot.

No, but we can... (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597835)

...abbreviate cutting-and-pasting the first paragraph of the article as the Slashdot article to !summary.

Things like this... (-1, Troll)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#25596991)

When I read things such as this I like to take a moment to let the dumbfounded feeling wash over me.

This is just not that important.

Re:Things like this... (2, Insightful)

abigor (540274) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597083)

Oh really? Would you also say studying topology in general is unimportant? Why or why not? Since you're able to discern which branches of mathematics aren't "important", you're clearly a mathematical authority, so please feel free to enlighten us.

Re:Things like this... (4, Interesting)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597153)

This is just not that important.

Are you sure?

When algebra was invented, did people think that was important? What about geometry or calculus? What about number theory? Would Euler's study of the Seven Bridges of Konigsberg have been important to you? Probably not. But it did lay the foundations for modern graph theory which engineers use to design computer networks.

Re:Things like this... (5, Interesting)

DG (989) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597667)

Back when I was going to school for my Comp Sci degree, I was force-fed a lot of calculus.

Roughly twice as much calculus as was typical, because my disinterest (and the resultant lack of success) required me to take almost every single calculus course twice.

No sooner was I free of school than I brain-dumped every single last integral, deriviative, partial derivative, chain rule, trigometric identity... the lot of it. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

And then, some time later, I was trying to make my race car go faster. The problem was optimising the suspension for maximum grip, and to that end, I had affixed linear potentiometers to my suspension so I could record suspension position during a race.

Pretty soon, I had tons of data relating position to time. Pretty graphs, but aside from max/min/mean deflection data, pretty useless.

Until I started thinking about "position to time... position to time... where had I heard that before?"

That's right - my old arch-nemesis, calculus, suddenly proved useful. Deriving that position information gave me suspension velocity, and suddenly I knew EXACTLY what suspension velocities the car was seeing in actual competition. Given that I had a device that measured shock force as a function of velocity (that's how a shock works) I could now tune shocks independant of the driver's ass-dyno.

That resulted in a HUGE leap forward in my performance.

Don't dis abstract math - you never know when it'll pay off.

DG

Re:Things like this... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597929)

Back when I was going to school for my Elementary School diploma, I was force-fed a lot of arithmetic.

Roughly twice as much as was typical, because my disinterest (and the resultant lack of success) required me to take almost every grade twice.

No sooner was I free of school than I brain-dumped every single addition, multiplication, subtraction, division, counting... the lot of it. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

And then, some time later, I was trying to make my paycheck go farther. The problem was optimising the spending for maximum personal happiness, and to that end, I had collected all of my receipts so that I could record where I was spending my money during the month.

Pretty soon, I had tons of data indicating where my money was going. Pretty numbers, but aside from a few expensive items, pretty useless.

Until I started thinking about what I could do with a set of numbers.

That's right - my old arch-nemesis, arithmetic, suddenly proved useful. Summing the money spent in different categories gave me totals, and suddenly I knew EXACTLY where my money was going in an actual month. Given that I had measured how much money was spent on each purchase (that's how receipts work) I could now properly budget my spending.

That resulted in a HUGE leap forward in my quality of life.

Don't dis abstract math - you never know when it'll pay off.

AC

Re:Things like this... (3, Funny)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597771)

When I read things such as this I like to take a moment to let the dumbfounded feeling wash over me.

This is just not that important.

You only say that because you have yet to be involved in a serious shoe-tying accident.

The hardest math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25596995)

That larger mathematical theory, if it exists, may help crack some of the hardest mathematical questions there are, questions about the mathematical structure of the three- and four-dimensional space where we live...

And how many mathematicians do you know? The moment this question is even close to being answered, one of them will go off and figure out an even harder question to answer.
"Well now they we have the answer in 4 dimension spaces, we will not rest until we can do it in any prime dimensional space."
I kid because I love.
Could someone please point to relevant information on the topic for why this matters? The article seems to be a a lovely history of a couple of polynomials, but does anything here warrant

The payoff from such work may be profound.

to non-specialists?

Re:The hardest math (4, Insightful)

tloh (451585) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597081)

Once upon a time, I was similarly bored by this area of abstract research. But about a year ago, I attended a seminar where a guest lecturer was a mathematician who applied knot theory to the physical modeling of life processes involving the winding and unwinding of DNA in Chromosomes and the folding and unfolding of peptide strings in protein formation. I didn't understand half of the lecture. But one very important point I got out of it is that no matter how abstract and esoteric a subject might be, there is immense value to be obtained if it can be utilized to model physical processes we seek to understand.

Re:The hardest math (4, Insightful)

oscartheduck (866357) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597255)

I think the important thing is that when you're investigating new areas of mathematics and it's _hard_, that's because the tools you're using are not suited for investigating this issue. So you invent a new tool, and that new tool can be applied in many, many places.

Hard problems are only hard because we're using the wrong tools.

Re:The hardest math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597541)

Agreed.

Re:The hardest math (2, Interesting)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597363)

I attended a seminar where a guest lecturer was a mathematician who applied knot theory to the physical modeling of life processes involving the winding and unwinding of DNA in Chromosomes and the folding and unfolding of peptide strings in protein formation.

I spent 15 years of my life in physics of proteins. Theory of knots in protein folding is nothing more than fancy mathematical excursion (though knots do matter, in very simple form). The importance of "theory" in those sciences is way overblown. It was fun to do to satisfy your own intellectual curiosity, but it's a dead end on the road of science.

Re:The hardest math (1)

tloh (451585) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597833)

with apologies to previous poster..... perhaps you were using the wrong tools? (j/k) (^_^) In all seriousness, most of her research were on DNA rather than proteins, which she only briefly mentioned in passing. Though routine cellular processes like transcription and replication happen without a hitch almost all the time, the way it all happens without getting hopelessly entangled with itself is an incredibly interesting problem. For those of us who are not cellular biologists: gene transcription in eukaryotes involve not only the chromosome unwinding at a specific point (allowing polymerase complexes of several protein molecules to access the relevant portion of the genetic code) but also nearby sections of the DNA strand looping back through the complex because it contains control elements that regulates the expression of the gene. Inevitably, knots form and must be resolved. A mathematical basis for this process would be extremely welcomed by molecular biologist.

Re:The hardest math (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597653)

And this happens all the time too. It's spooky how abstract questions seem to always be applicable

Re:The hardest math (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597619)

And how many mathematicians do you know? The moment this question is even close to being answered, one of them will go off and figure out an even harder question to answer.

How is that hard? He just has to go through his address book, ask each person what they do and every time one says "mathemetician" he adds 1.

Solution already patented in 1996 ... (4, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597057)

... and relies on the cunning use of a rabbit, tree, and hole to tie shoelaces [patentstorm.us] .

does this mean? (3, Funny)

nx6310 (1150553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597139)

the inventor of the shoe lace could be the answer to all our four dimensional space quetions?

Re:does this mean? (2, Funny)

mikael (484) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597489)

Yes, String Theory research will be replaced by Tangled Shoelace Theory - the theory that the space-time continuum is in fact a giant cosmic tangle of shoelaces, and that these shoelaces only get untangled in the presence of a large gravitational object, thus causing space-time curvature. In the presence of a massively strong gravitational object such as a black hole, these shoelaces actually break in half, with one half going into the black hole and the other half left dangling in this universe. Thus we see no light as all the shoelaces are now in a tightly tangled ball that has no connection to this universe.

Ok Great, but can this be used to..... (2, Funny)

3seas (184403) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597173)

....untie the knot my cat did with the mop?

Clandestine Shoelaces (3, Funny)

Prius (1170883) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597207)

This just in: Physicists have just now revealed that String Theory has nothing to do with the fabric of our universe, and everything to do with teaching toddlers how to tie their shoes.

Re:Clandestine Shoelaces (1)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597645)

and everything to do with teaching toddlers how to tie their shoes

Yes, the problem they're facing now is teaching the toddlers how to see that 11th dimension.

this is great (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597249)

but it will never be able to explain why anyone would want to "tie the knot."

The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie (5, Informative)

perlstar (245756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597265)

Man, I haven't posted in years... but there's a great book by this title written by two mathematicians. They talk about the topology of knots as well as the history of ties. Which actors/celebrities wore what tie knots, etc.

I can't seem to locate my copy at the moment, but from what I recall, there are an infinite number of potential knots, but they are classified by the number of sequences in them. And within a certain number of steps, (I think 5) there are 85 possible ways to tie a tie. Then they rank them by symmetry and a copule other criteria.

I recommend it to anybody who is interested in this subject. It's out of print, but it's still possible to find a copy for sale online.

Re:The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597281)

it hasn't been years motherfucker. it's been a little over a year. and judging from your other posts it's for the best. you don't have anything to say that's worthwhile. so just shut the fuck up retard bitch.

Re:The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie (2, Funny)

Prius (1170883) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597401)

I smell hormones! Someone's headed to the Youtube comments.

Can There Be a Knot that Cannot Be Tied or Untied? (5, Funny)

Louis Savain (65843) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597413)

I'm just wondering. One never knows with math.

Re:Can There Be a Knot that Cannot Be Tied or Unti (2, Funny)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597477)

Im more worried about the knots that can be tied but not untied. My shoes are about to get the Alexander's universal knot solution.

Re:Can There Be a Knot that Cannot Be Tied or Unti (1)

Arimus (198136) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597479)

Just open a draw containing various cables that has been left for a few months - none of them knotted when you put them in but you can bet when you take them out they'll be more knotted than a knotty thing

Re:Can There Be a Knot that Cannot Be Tied or Unti (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597869)

I have a simple proof of such a knot, but the margin contains too few shoelaces to contain it.

PS: When asked to pull yourself up by your bootlaces, you can now ask for the Jones Polynomial required to do this.

Sounds like an easy question to me. (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597423)

The answer is obvious: there are infinitely many ways to tie shoelaces. I'm pretty sure I can prove this by mathematical induction in no more than half a dozen steps.

Unless you limit the length of the laces, of course, but then the limit will depend on the physical properties of the laces (not just length but also thickness and so forth), at which point the problem loses its mathematical purity and becomes more of a physics problem.

Re:Sounds like an easy question to me. (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597955)

Surely there's only one? Sure there are probably infinite ways to create a knot that would be a bugger to get out, but that's not really tying shoelaces is it.. the whole point is they come undone when you pull them, and universally this is done only one way.

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597455)

In other news, an algorithm was discovered to determine how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

wrong theory (5, Funny)

Better.Safe.Than.Sor (836676) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597475)

I prefer the "velcro" theory.

Quantum Theory (1)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597621)

In 1988, physicist Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton turned Jones' single invariant into a whole zoo of new invariants using a link he found between Jones' method and quantum theory.

Does this mean that Schrodinger's cat now wears a tie with a very, very complicated knot? This could be a revolution in the mathmaticians annual fashion contest!

"Tie" this to the election (1)

jvschwarz (92288) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597625)

Obama - I see him as an overhand knot guy.

McCain - a velcro guy for sure.

KNot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25597627)

I can honestly say that I find this is the most negative piece of software in the K Desktop Environment.

Hey, I read XKCD (1)

blake182 (619410) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597639)

What are the implications for hyperbondage?

My 3 year old volunteers to answer the question (1)

ValentineMSmith (670074) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597663)

She's discovering the joys of shoelaces now, and you want to talk about knots.. Boy, oh boy. She's gonna be a mathematician for sure!

In other news (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 5 years ago | (#25597689)

A Ph.D. will now be required to join the Boy Scouts.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>