Color-Changing Material Unites the Math and Physics of Knots

Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog.

Mathematicians have studied knots for centuries, but a new material is showing why some knots are better than others.Image by karlibri / Shutterstock

ne sunny day in the summer of 2019, Mathias Kolle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, took a couple of eminent colleagues out sailing. They talked about their research. They had some drinks. Then Kolle noticed something was off: A rowboat tied to his boat had come loose and was drifting toward the horizon. As he tacked across the water to retrieve the wayward vessel, he realized his mistake.

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