How do wires get so tangled even when you’re not using them?



Mainly referring to headphones getting tangled in pockets/backpacks/bags, but other chords seem to do the same!

In: Physics

I remember having this exact same question and I learned that there’s actually a science to how knots form. There’s people who study this stuff. It has largely to do with the number of points of contact. The more points of contact, the number of knots can grow exponentially.

“The Science of Knots Unraveled | Live Science”

You are not storing them correctly.

If you store them by winding them round-and-round, you are positioning them to minimize the energy needed to change the overlap and tangle them.

About 1700 years ago, sailors started coiling ropes differently, a figure 8 approach called flaking. If you do this, they will be much less likely to tangle.

There are a ton of ways for a wire to get tangled – and when you’re jostling them around in your pocket or bag or something, the wire goes through a lot of bending and such, putting it in a lot of different orientations. Since there are so many ways for it to get tangled, the likelihood of wire arranging into a “tangled” state is pretty high. But once the wire gets tangled, it never really gets spontaneously untangled – that’s basically what a tangle is, something that can only be undone in one specific way (and the likelihood of that specific untangled orientation spontaneously happening is quite unlikely).

The simplest way I’ve seen it explained is that there are hundreds of ways for a rope to be tied into a knot, but only one way for it to not.

In other words, of all of the different ways your headphones can loop around themselves as they are jostled around in your pocket, it’s simply that the odds of them being knotted are pretty good.