Posted : April 2014
Author : Hassan Aftab
|Courtesy: Jiangshui Huang|
Accidental inventions and discoveries are not uncommon; we have had a fair share of those in the past. A team of researchers at Harvard seems to have stumbled upon one such prodigy. This one involves crossing rubber band with an octopus. The team of researchers was attempting to create springs. A couple of strips each bearing equal length were glued together and stretched before each end was clipped with slim strings such that they could freely rotate around. The strips took an entirely new shape as the force stretching the strips died out.
This whole new shape looks very much like a double helix that bears various perversions. One could argue that it is more along the lines of being hemihelix since the helix changes course from rotating clockwise to rotating anti-clockwise. In case you were left wondering, that variation in direction of the helix is what a perversion is. Researchers did not expect the bands to undergo more than one perversion but eleven perversions were noticed. The team of researchers was able to show that the perversions rely on the ratio of height to width of the cross section of each strip. Wider strips had no perversions whatsoever. On the contrary, ones with small heights had plenty.
An author of the study, Associate Professor Katia Bertoldi said, “Once you are able to fabricate these complex shapes and control them, the next step will be to see if they have unusual properties; for example, to look at their effect on the propagation of light.”
The lead author, Jia Liu was pleased by the prospects of the study: “We see deterministic growth from a two-dimensional state - two strips bonded together - to a three-dimensional state. The actual number of perversions, the diameter, everything else about it is entirely prescribed. There is no randomness; it’s fully deterministic. So if you make one hundred of these, they’ll always perform exactly the same way.”
What about that octopus, you must be wondering. That was the original experiment; making new springs courtesy of cephalopods which is a type of molluscs including octopus.