Knotty, knotty project!

By Rich Maltzman

Living near Boston (and Cambridge) Massachusetts in the USA, I’m right nearby Harvard University (perhaps you’ve heard of this institution). Recently the Ig Noble awards were given out there. The Ig Nobel Prizes are a parody of the Nobel Prizes and are given each year in early October : around the time the recipients of the genuine Nobel Prizes are announced : for ten achievements that “first make people laugh, and then make them think.” Organized by the scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), they are presented by a group that includes genuine Nobel Laureates at a ceremony at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater.

You can read about the various discoveries on the “improbable” website.

This year, one of the prizes was given to Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, USA, for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots. They took lengths of string and shook them up in specifically-sized boxes at specific vibration levels and sure enough, knots “spontaneously” formed. In fact, they even plotted the probability of knots against the length of string and got this nifty result:

As project managers, we don’t need charts or experiments.

We know this to be true.

We feel it in our gut, we believe it with every fiber of our being.

A project left unmanaged – like wire or string or even garden hose -will tie itself into the tangliest of knots without the key communications, the change management, the people skills, and the ability to (excuse the pun) tie it all together, the talent we provide as project managers.

So although we may not deserve the Nobel Prize, or even one of these Ig Noble gag prizes, we should take pride in seeing one of the truths we hold to be self-evident to be proven mathematically.

I sure hope I didn’t string you along too much with this thread… I hope knot….

About the Author

MaltzmanRich Maltzman, PMP
Principal, exclaim! Project Management Training and Consulting


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