A great number of published papers seems to evidence boredom and/or illicit substance use in the academe.1 This should come as no surprise. Academia can be tedious: hours spent in front of a computer screen/in the lab, endless bureaucracy, and a never-ending teaching schedule could all contribute to a general sense of boredom and/or a drive to beat it with mind-altering chemicals beyond the standard caffeine and alcohol. Indeed, the famous Penguin diagrams in physics resulted from a combination of beer, bravado and recreational drugs.
So, are these academics bored or high? You decide!
#1: String theory
No no, not the string theory, but a theory, about string. Actual string. A couple of academics put some string in a box and shook it up to see how it knots. Why, exactly? Well, because while
it is well known that a jostled string tends to become knotted… the factors governing the “spontaneous” formation of various knots are unclear.
They found that “complex knots often form within seconds”. Like this:
The researchers then analyzed the knots using mathematical knot theory.
The full paper, ‘Spontaneous knotting of an agitated string’ can be downloaded here.
- Nothing here should be taken as implying that I accuse particular academics of using drugs. Please don’t sue me, I have no money. ↩