WASHINGTON — Knotted-up headphones can be a common frustration for those who opt for earbud-style models, but a scientist is aiming to solve the annoyance with a mathematical theory.
Robert Matthews, a visiting scientist at Aston University in Birmingham, England, developed a mathematical theory that explains why headphones get tangled, according to ABC News.
Matthews called the theory the “Loop Conjecture” or “Murphy’s Law of String.”
Much like the well-known Murphy’s law that claims anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, Matthews says any string that can get into knots, will get into knots, according to The Daily Mail.
The theory adds that the longer the string is, the more likely it is to spontaneously knot. Also, joining the ends together dramatically reduces the probability of the string knotting.
Matthews has a solution to the dreaded headphone tangles, too. Through his research, he found that clipping the two earbuds together and attaching them to the end near the audio jack will reduce tangling.
“First, by forming the loop you’ve effectively reduced the length of string able to explore the 3D space by 50 per cent, which makes a big difference.” Matthews said to ABC News. “Second, you’ve also eliminated the two ends, which are the prime movers of knot formation.”
To test the theory, Mathews hosted “The Great British Knot Experiment,” where participants untied knots and compared which kinds were easiest to unravel. The participants repeated the process with both ends meeting.
The research proved that joining the ends of the headphones together can dramatically cut the chance of knotting.
“I hope it saves people a lot of grief,” he said to ABC News.
Watch the ABC video showing the diagram of how to reduce headphone tangles.