Cookies

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Research & business

View Profile

Publication details for Paul Sutcliffe

Maucher, F. & Sutcliffe, P.M. (2016). Untangling knots via reaction-diffusion dynamics of vortex strings. Physical Review Letters 116(17): 178101.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

We introduce and illustrate a new approach to the unknotting problem via the dynamics of vortex strings in a nonlinear partial differential equation of reaction-diffusion type. To untangle a given knot, a Biot-Savart construction is used to initialize the knot as a vortex string in the FitzHugh-Nagumo equation. Remarkably, we find that the subsequent evolution preserves the topology of the knot and can untangle an unknot into a circle. Illustrative test case examples are presented, including the untangling of a hard unknot known as the culprit. Our approach to the unknotting problem has two novel features, in that it applies field theory rather than particle mechanics and uses reaction-diffusion dynamics in place of energy minimization.