knots and neurons

I have already written about the wires that are littering my room for ages. Now, something to related with that post, perhaps, but today afternoon a cousin who's currently living outside the country came online in messenger in a long time. After some typing, we decided to have voice conversation. He was already in a hurry but I told him to wait a bit, while I fetched the mic. Upon opening the door of my room, on the floor there, one could see a variety of wires - blue, white, and black especially - and I wondered where on earth could I have kept the microphone? I don't have a single-mic alone, but something like mic attached with headphones - that most common one as sold everywhere. Amid all the wires coiled like a snake's nest, I could not, honestly, determine where to look for the chunk of headphone. Surely my cousin would be waiting forever now! I was thinking whether to leave the search or just begin it and if so, where I should begin it - when suddenly I saw that pink jack of the mic peeping silently from under a heap of wires - bingo!

I started to pull out the jack and in doing so, jerked the whole heap, which caused a knot there. Okay, it was only one knot in the beginning. But I struggled further in a hurry, only to worsen the subject. Now in my hand there was a bundle of intertwined wires, which reminded me the picture of glomerulus from science book in school. To straighten this out in order to separate the mic, it was going to need some time - a lot of time. Therefore I came back and explained my cousin what had happened. Upon hearing what I said, he could not hold his laugh over the mic he was wearing. I heard that cheerful nostalgic laugh through speakers on my side. In the meantime, he signed off while I sat down to solve the knots. I did the task carefully and steadily - undid all the knots on all the wires. I even pegged the lengthy ones and at the end of three hours or more, my room was looking nice and tidy. In the process of untying the knots, however, some thoughts came to my mind.

Knots made in different styles have always served people for many things - it has a huge history and a long range of usage. That's all right, but what could have been the first tasks that human beings accomplished from such knots? In primordial times, human beings certainly made the most basic type of knots and luckily, we can make a fair guess of the list of things that a human being can do using a primitive type of knot. For example, making a blockade by randomly tying a long rope across a number of close tree trunks in a jungle; especially useful while running away from chasing beasts. The hunter could sneak away from under the ropes, while the beast would be slowed down by hurdles of ropes. Sounds crazy? Try this at home:

Take a child (boy or girl) of eight to ten years and give him a piece of rope around two meters in length. Tell him to make knots in any way that he likes. After he makes the first knot, take a picture - repeat this for the second knot, the third knot and so on - until the child runs out of ideas. How many different types of knots can he create? Now repeat this same experiment with an adult and compare the results. To be more sure, choose different sets of individuals for repeated experiment. In the end you will see that 99 % of the time, the adult will create more complex knots than the child. Meaning, a simple and overlooked thing like a knot could have played some roles in the evolution of human intelligence through the ages - the observation being that more complex minds can create more complex figures.

Now, while we are developing different types of robots and are competing day by day to make them more intelligent - could we take advantage of knots here, in order to devise relevant mathematical tests for the evolving intelligence of robots? Remember, that every time we are untying a knot, we are randomly changing direction, which is easy for a human being, but is a great problem for robots in terms of spatial complexity. This idea appeared brilliant at the time it came to my head, until I knew that such a thing as Knot Theory already exists, and is one of the subjects of Topology, which in turn appears to be a specialized subject of mathematics!

No wonder my teachers were right - I was never good at maths!


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