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Formation Of A Helix

  1. Apr 1, 2009 #1
    I'm currently writing a computer simulation (in Java) of the formation of a helix from a spinning thread. The analogy I use is to imagine a piece of thread held between two fingers and left to hang via gravity. When the thread is spun by rolling one finger against the other, the thread will itself rotate. But because the force is only applied at one end, there is a delay in the time the force reaches the free end of the thread. This will result in a twisting effect and a 'wobbling' effect. It is this action which I wish to recreate in the formation of a helix. Does anyone understand what I am talking about? It's the fundamental modelling of the formation of a helix from a spinning thread. I need help. It sounds easy in practice, but tricky when you try to write a computer program.

    I come from an astronomy/computing background, and would appreciate the input from materials science people.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 1, 2009 #2


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    How would you keep the effect of gravity on the bending of the thread consistent as the thread grows in length and changes position?

    What you're doing reminds me of the making of a spring on the TV show 'How It's Made'. They extrude the wire and deflect it physically as it emerges. The key difference between your method and their method is that theirs uses a wire material that is stiff enough to be immune to gravity (thus, its changing length and position has no effect on formation) and a bending force that well-exceeds gravity.
  4. Apr 1, 2009 #3
    Thanks Dave; The idea was that the thread hangs down vertically so that gravity can be ignored. The simulation is meant to represent the formation of (spinning) matter at the beginning of the universe. (!)
    Again, the material I'm considering doesn't necessarily have to have the same properties as a coton thread. It could be stiffer but still pliable enough to flex when rotated rapidly. The wire making you saw sounds similar, but perhaps not quite the same. The increasing length of the 'thread' would increase it's flexure and therefore enhance helix formation (I think). The resultant overall creation is envisaged to be spring-like. (The inclusion of a gravity effect later on will create an attractive force between two opposing helix formations, which eventually overcomes the force of creation and propells the two into one another, aka the big bang!)
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2009
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