Skip to main content

The Truth about Curling Ribbons

I've been proud of my ribbon curling skills ever since I was a child, when my mom first showed me how to wrap presents. Since then I've curled so many ribbons that I would have claimed that I'm a curling virtuoso. Today I found out how wrong I was to think so.

Believe it or not, when you curl a ribbon by pulling it between your thumb and the blade of a pair of scissors, it will curl more tightly the slower you go. I always thought it curled more tightly as you pull faster.

I was proven wrong by physicist Buddhapriya Chakrabarti of Harvard. It turns out that I must have been pinching the ribbon more when I pulled it quickly, otherwise, according to Chakrabarti's experiments, it should have curled less. (Read more about the experiments on the American Institute of Physics web site Inside Science News Service.)

Just to confirm things I spent a few minutes curling ribbons today and found that Chakrabarti is absolutely right. In my own defense, however, I found that pinching tightly and pulling slowly is a bit tricky, sort of like patting your head while rubbing your tummy.

I probably won't change my ribbon curling technique for most packages because I've gotten so used to the quick zip of the ribbon before it snaps into a curl. But for those special people on special occasions (perhaps even for a certain someone this coming Valentine's Day), I'm going to pinch the ribbon extra hard and pull it extra slow for that perfect, tight little curl.


Popular Posts

How 4,000 Physicists Gave a Vegas Casino its Worst Week Ever

What happens when several thousand distinguished physicists, researchers, and students descend on the nation’s gambling capital for a conference? The answer is "a bad week for the casino"—but you'd never guess why.

Ask a Physicist: Phone Flash Sharpie Shock!

Lexie and Xavier, from Orlando, FL want to know: "What's going on in this video ? Our science teacher claims that the pain comes from a small electrical shock, but we believe that this is due to the absorption of light. Please help us resolve this dispute!"

The Science of Ice Cream: Part One

Even though it's been a warm couple of months already, it's officially summer. A delicious, science-filled way to beat the heat? Making homemade ice cream. (We've since updated this article to include the science behind vegan ice cream. To learn more about ice cream science, check out The Science of Ice Cream, Redux ) Image Credit: St0rmz via Flickr Over at Physics@Home there's an easy recipe for homemade ice cream. But what kind of milk should you use to make ice cream? And do you really need to chill the ice cream base before making it? Why do ice cream recipes always call for salt on ice?