The Mobius strip and the trefoil knot are cool looking structures. Look around you and you’ll probably see one or both of those shapes in the environment. From escalators to proteins, these two funny shapes seem to appear over and over again in the manmade and natural world. In fact, when it comes to iconography throughout human history, the trefoil knot in particular pops up frequently. What’s so special about these shapes? Keep reading to find out!
Two Flat Surfaces At Once
Take a piece of paper, twist it, join the ends. There is your mobius strip! You can press a pen down on one side of the strip, pull it along and eventually, the line that forms will join at the beginning point. Basically, you used both sides of the paper without having to take the pen off the paper and flipping the strip.
This cool aspect of the mobius strip gives it a place in engineering, physics, and even nanotechnology. Some conveyer belts are just giant mobius strips, allowing both sides of the belt to be worn evenly. While more or less obsolete, typewriter ribbons are also mobius strips in order to even out use. In physics, mobius strips can be used as inductionless resistors. And in nanotechnology, mobius strips can be used in molecular engines.
Proteins and Symbols
While you may be familiar with the trefoil knot from watching movies about Norse mythology, Celtic people, or ancient Germanic peoples, you might be surprised to learn that certain proteins contain a trefoil knot within their structure. Most of these knots are shallow knots, in that they form at the ends of the protein. Deep trefoil knots are rare and these are found deep within the protein structure. Many times, these knots are part of an active or binding site of the protein.
Since proteins aren’t pieces of rope, many of the knots inside the proteins aren’t true trefoil knots and they’re open ended. You start to make a trefoil knot everytime you tie your shoes and make an overhand knot, but tie up the dangling laces and now you have a closed knot. What makes the trefoil knot, well, the trefoil knot, is that it can’t be untangled or unwound unless someone cuts it to reveal two loose ends.
Get Knotted Over These
If you’ve enjoyed these knotty stories, then you’ll be happy to hear that you can leave this newsletter today with a souvenir! We’ve designed and created both the mobius strip and the trefoil knot, so they’re available and waiting for you in our atelier. Purchase one or both for yourself or for a friend. These pieces also make great gifts for biochemists, escalator enthusiasts, typewriter users, and starry-eyed mathematicians and physicists everywhere.
written by Science with Evie