Why Christmas lights are so prone to tangling and what you can do about it

Daybreak

Mathematicians know why -- the mathematical theory of knots

(WYTV) – Every Christmas tree needs pretty colored lights but after storing them in a box last Christmas, they’re all tangled up.

Why are Christmas lights so prone to tangling in the first place?

Mathematicians know why — the mathematical theory of knots.

Physicists Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith from the University of California tried an experiment. They put bits of string of different lengths in a box and rotated the box so the strings tumbled around, like clothes in a dryer.

The first knots appeared within seconds. More than 120 different types of knots spontaneously formed during the experiment.

So jostle the box with your Christmas lights, and they’re sure to tangle.

Traditional Christmas lights also have a wire in them. They were shipped and wrapped around a cylinder, for example, and they tend to keep that shape. Unbend them to hang them on a tree and you’re just asking them to tangle.

Then what can you do after the holidays?

Coil your lights very carefully when putting them away. Use a twist tie from a bread wrapper to keep them in place.

Martha Stewart says wrap them around sheets of cardboard.

And the only way to untangle them — find one of the “free” ends and work from there. You’ll eventually get there.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending on WYTV.com