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12 December 2013 1:00 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
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ScienceShot: The Physics of Ponytails
12 February 2012 7:01 pm
Thinking about growing a ponytail but have no idea what it's going to look like? Ask a physicist. A new equation helps explain why some ponytails form long, thin manes, while others fan out into a cone. Average humans have about 100,000 hairs on their heads, making a hair-by-hair analysis of shape, length, and texture a daunting proposition. Instead, researchers attacked the problem with techniques from statistical mechanics, which deals with very large numbers of particles acting in a mass. They assumed that a stream of hair behaves much like a stream of fluid, and that its density decreases the further away it gets from a clip or scrunchie. When they plugged those assumptions into a formula describing the energy of a symmetrical tube of fibers, they came out with the Ponytail Shape Equation. The equation, reported 13 February in Physical Review Letters, not only explains different hair geometries, it should also help predict the dynamic behavior of bundles of fibers. In other words, when Rapunzel lets down her hair, how far it will swing.
See more ScienceShots.