Sweet rolls, bagels, pretzels and a Nobel Prize in Physics? Carb-loaded math? Maybe it’s time to take a second look.

Remember last month when we looked at

nanoscience and discovered that the more we learn the more we need new technology to measure and study things that are smaller, or slower, or faster than we have ever experienced before?   

Three theoretical physicists were awarded a Nobel Prize in 2016 for analyzing the scientific importance of links and knots. They used baked goods as part of their lab inventory. To the doctors, work and breakfast became pretty much the same thing.


So where you have a hole, you must have a joining of the matter around the hole—sometimes that is a knot. Knot that you always kneed to have a knot, but when you do, you kneed to analyze it. This emerging math is called Topology.

Of course there are knots in things besides baked goods. Scientists have found knots in atoms, vortexes, DNA strands, the Solar atmosphere, and

magicians’ tricks.

“Knot Theory” or topology is a branch of math that studies how things are connected and doesn’t care about sizes or shapes. To a topologist a doughnut is the same as a coffee cup since each is a solid piece with a single hole in it.  


When two loops of metal or other material go through each other’s inside, they are physically separate but cannot be taken apart such as a chain. A chain can support enormous weight and be extremely flexible. You may use one to keep your bike from being stolen. A chain is a kind of knot.

Not all links are chains, such as the Borromean Rings which are often used by amateur magicians. In the picture below you will see that the red loop is not linked to the blue loop, the blue loop is not linked to the green loop and the green loop is not linked to the red loop. However, you still can’t take them apart without cutting one of them.


As nanoscience becomes more mainstream the importance of understanding knots increases.  

February 2017