Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sailing's Greatest Unsolved Mysteries

Forget the Mary Celeste and Baron de Rosnay. There are any number of plausible explanations for those nautical mysteries.

There are greater unsolved sailing mysteries for which science has no explanation whatsoever. I wrote about one yesterday. How can an inanimate piece of line like a Laser mainsheet tie itself into knots with no human intervention?

Logical Litoralis rose to the challenge and wrote a post on his blog on the Science of Knots. Sorry kiddo I'm not convinced.

Apparently a couple of scientists from the University of California (where else?) spent many months and oodles of grant dollars dropping pieces of string into boxes and shaking them around. Surprise, surprise, the string got tangled! I know that. The mystery is how this happens, not whether it does.

One of these two scientific geniuses from la-la-land apparently built a computer program to simulate string bouncing around inside a box and once again, shock, horror, the virtual string tied itself in virtual knots. So what? There is a computer program called Tacticat in which I have proven conclusively that if I make a squirrel start and bang the right hand corner I will win 42.3% of all sailing races. Somehow my percentage in the real world is somewhat lower.

You can tell how far this programmer dude is divorced from reality by this quote from him in a Live Science article. “It is virtually impossible to distinguish different knots just by looking at them.” I rest my case.

Here are two more huge unsolved sailing mysteries that have stumped the world's smartest scientists...

The Great Clevis Pin and Cotter Ring Mystery

This is a clevis pin

These are cotter rings

The cotter rings are used to secure clevis pins. One end of the ring is inserted in the pin hole and then the ring is rotated until the other end of the ring is through the hole.

It should be secure. But it ain't.

For example, the ring in the pin securing the deck block for the outhaul line on my Laser, somehow managed to unwind itself and magically disappear while the boat was sitting on its trailer in my garage for two weeks while I was in Spain. Science would say that this is physically impossible. But it happened.

Then there is the Great Gatorade Bottle Mystery

This is a bottle of Gatorade

Yesterday before going sailing I put a bottle of Gatorade in my sailing bag, zipped it up and placed the bag in my car. It was never out of my sight. But when I reached the launch area the bottle of Gatorade had disappeared. After a (thirsty) afternoon's sailing I drove home and discovered that the bottle of Gatorade had teleported itself out of the bag and out of the car, projected itself across several miles of open water, and landed right side up on the kitchen counter at my house.

Explain that you Californian scientists, I challenge you.


Anonymous said...

The "scientists" did actually explain how the knots were formed...but it was such a self evident reason that I left it out of my post:
"Once dropped, the string formed concentric coils. Next, the string's free end weaved through the coils, with a 50 percent likelihood of crossing under or over the coil and following a path to the left or right."

Oh, and one of the first things I learned in college was that cotter rings must be taped using a small piece of electrical tape to prevent their spontaneous escape.

Anonymous said...

This Gatorade thing happens to me all the time, esp. with keys and scarfs. They fall into a wormhole (time hole between two universes, kind of an eddy). After not being of use to the other universe anymore they got spit out through the same or another wormhole back to our universe. I have such a wormhole in my car on the right side of the front passenger seat. Amazing what I recover from there every now and then...

Tillerman said...

Thank you for validating the results of my experiment renmaus. Now that two of us have independently demonstrated the Gatorade Effect, science must come up with an explanation.

I like you Wormhole Theory. But to prove it we must complete at least one more experiment. Your theory would predict that my missing library book is on the front passenger seat of your car. If you find it there could you please forward to me and I will then file our joint application for next year's Nobel Prize in Physics.

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