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Headphone wires

  1. Sep 1, 2009 #1
    Why do they always get so tangled when they're in my pocket? I can put them in there completely untangled, then when I pull them out a couple minutes later, they're tangled up badly.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 1, 2009 #2
    Small pixies that live in the lining of your trousers do it.

    They also cause biros to leak then you put them in your pocket with no lid on.
  4. Sep 1, 2009 #3


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    That's right. Their droppings look exactly like lint. Ever find lint in your pocket? What the heck is causing lint to form in there, have you ever wondered that?!? No...if you've got "pocket lint," you've got pixies.
  5. Sep 1, 2009 #4
    I'm looking for a physics explanation for this please.
  6. Sep 1, 2009 #5
    I doubt there is one. It's one of the great mysteries of life... :tongue:
  7. Sep 1, 2009 #6


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    OK, if I had to venture a guess...

    There are five layers in play here.

    Your leg
    The inner layer of the pocket
    The wires
    The outer layer of the pocket
    Your pants

    As you move, the friction between the wires and the pocket is less than that between any of the other layers, because the wires are round and they roll. So it's the one that moves, in shear. Which causes the wires to tangle. Just my opinion.
  8. Sep 1, 2009 #7
    You know funnly enough I dont think anyone has taken the time to predict the mechansm of why wires get tangled in your pocket. I thinks its normally field under 's**t that just happens for no reason'.

    Pockets are easy to explain, as you walk you jiggle the wire.

    What REALLY boggles the mind is how they get tangled when you put them in a drawer all nice and neat. I think that only increases the evidence of pixies tbh.
  9. Sep 1, 2009 #8
    My experience is that most of the tangling occurs when you attempt to unravel them. Because of the way they are bunched and tangled it is hard to tell which way to attempt to unravel them and your incorrect attempts tangle them up.
  10. Sep 2, 2009 #9
    There has been some research on this knotty problem - see http://www.npr.org/blogs/bryantpark/2008/01/knot_theory_why_everything_tan.html" [Broken] (Proceedings of the National Academy Of Sciences).
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  11. Sep 2, 2009 #10


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    Skin effect. This is what you get for using those shoddy, thin stock cables. You need to move up to some 10 AWG silver coated oxygen free copper Litz cabling.
  12. Sep 2, 2009 #11
    No! I got it! I got it! The answer is 42! :biggrin:
  13. Sep 2, 2009 #12


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    Tangling occurs in two ways. You coil up the cable. In your pocket one loop can easily slip around another loop. Then when you try to untangle the outer loop tightens around the inner loop. The second effect is that the ends generally are larger (heavier) than the cable but smaller than the loops so they bounce around randomly slipping through the loops in the coil.

    I found a neat set of headphones which have one of those spring loaded spools so they never get tangled. Unfortunately they don't stay in my ears well.

    To minimize tangling leave the headphones plugged in your mp3 player and wrap around the device.

    If you can't then fold the wire half-way and tie a loose granny knot in the middle and then wad up in pocket. When you pull it out hold by the knot and shake. The ends should be relatively untangled and you just untie the knot. (Not perfect but a controlled tangle is better than a mess).
  14. Sep 2, 2009 #13
    My view is: as a system it has many states only a few of which could be described as untangled and the vast majority are a tangled mess.

    That and the pocket pixies...
  15. Sep 2, 2009 #14
    The 2008 Ig Nobel Prize in physics. You beat me to it, dlorde.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  16. Sep 2, 2009 #15
    I was a bit surprised no-one else had mentioned it - once seen, it's not easily forgotten :biggrin:
  17. Sep 2, 2009 #16


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    Just make sure you leave enough slack that you don't break the cord at the connector.
  18. Sep 3, 2009 #17


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    No, no. Make sure you tie it so tight the connector starts breaking.
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