File this one to: science mysteries we never needed answered but are kinda glad they were.
Scientists have finally answered the few thousand millennia-old question: why do shoelaces suddenly come undone?
The answer: a “catastrophic” chain of events that leave you with tight laces one minute, and loose hazards the next.
Researchers at the University of California Berkeley undertook a series of experiments involving, among other things, slow motion footage of a runner on a treadmill, and found that “shoelace knot failure” happens in a matter of seconds
“It’s unpredictable but when it happens, it’s in two or three strides and it’s catastrophic,” said Oliver O’Reilly, the study’s senior author, as quoted in The Guardian. “There’s no way of coming back from it.”
I just want to reiterate that we’re talking about shoelaces here. Okay.
Basically, the study found that the constant stomping of your foot – which hits the ground at seven times the force of gravity – causes the fabric of the shoe to squash down on impact, loosening the knot slightly with each stride. The swinging motion causes the lace’s ends to whip back and forth, tugging them outwards, until suddenly, it’s go-time, and the entire thing unravels before your very eyes.
“The interesting thing about this mechanism is that your laces can be fine for a really long time, and it’s not until you get one little bit of motion to cause loosening that starts this avalanche effect leading to knot failure,” said co-author Christine Gregg.
The Guardian has a very thorough run-down of how this whole shoelace thing works and what YOU can do about it, but honestly, there’s one very obvious solution to this unravelling shoelaces conundrum, and it doesn’t involve relearning how to tie a friggin’ knot.
Source: The Guardian.
Photo: Back to the Future II.