Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh, The Loh Down on Science is a fun way to get your daily dose of science plus a dash of humor in less than two minutes.
Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh
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A mathematician's calculations, inspired by a villain from The Matrix!

We know mathematicians can be strange dressers, but this takes the cake!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet Swedish mathematician Mikael Vejdemo Johansson.  He’s a fan of the Matrix movies, and a natty dresser.

He was intrigued by research published fifteen years ago by mathematicians Thomas Fink and Yong Mao.  They used what’s called “formal language theory” to describe necktie knots.  Using the theory, they converted knot tying into a series of symbols.  Think:  Fold left, tuck right, etc.

They concluded there are 85 possible necktie knots.

Fast forward to today.  While watching the Matrix movies, Johansson thought about Fink and Mao’s research.  One Matrix villain, named the Merovingian, sports an intricately knotted necktie.  Instead of a standard flat front, it has a folded face! 

Johansson realized:  Fink and Mao only calculated for flat-fronted knots.  So Johansson reworked their calculations, allowing for more wraps.  Instead of eight, eleven.

He says:  the total necktie knots possible?  177,000!  He has posted a necktie knot generator online.

As for mixing stripes and polka dots?  Still gauche, even in the Matrix.