6.12.2019

Tangle Theory: Beaver Dams, Wootz steel, Friction, and beyond

Hate tangles?  What if I told you tangles are among the most cutting edge science in the universe.

A tangle isn't nessesarily chaos.  A tangle is one or more objects that resist bieng separated.  There are many industries where we absolutely want tangles and we work extremely hard to create them.  Take your shirt.  If the cotton (hopefully not synthetic) fibers you are wearing in your shirt weren't tangled your shirt would fall apart.  If the wood and mud weren't tangled up in a beaver dam, it would break.  If the carbon fibers weren't tangled in carbon fiber composite, it would shatter.  Tangles are an integral part in almost everything that is made.

Completely random tangles are probably best however they are extremely hard to reliably create.  You have to make sure that the tangle is in fact exactly random and that there are enough objects tangled to reliably support stress in any direction.  A weave is a very powerful type of tangle that is relatively easy to make, however a weave is strongest only in certain directions.  We see the weave tangle in clothes, carbon and glass fiber, beaver dams, etc.

We can use tangle theory to improve structural components easily.  For example if we are making multi layer carbon fiber, or even bullet proof vests, we can leverage tangle theory to improve them.  The more we can get the sheets of kevlar or other materials in bullet proof vests to want to tangle or stick together, the better the force of the bullet can be absorbed.  The better we can get sheets of carbon fiber to interact with each other, the stronger the material will be.  In wootz steel (what makes traditional damascus blades) the better we can get carbon nanotubes to tangle up in the steel, the sharper and stronger the blade can be. And of course cement. Guess why rebar and stones and sand are used?  More reasons than one and also making cement as dry as possible and packing it down hard allows for the best tangles between materials.

The entire field of material science and even propulsion (friction is required for motion and it is a tangle, listen up NASA) is either tangles, or can be improved with tangles.  Where there are no tangles in a material, always remember that there probably should be, and you will come up with genius ideas.

PS: Want to make a road but all you have to work with is mud?  Take a lesson from the tangle master, the beaver, and get big tangles of brush to bury in the mud.  Rose bushes are the best as the thorns really make the brush not want to be separated; the essence of a great tangle. :)

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