Skip to main content

Have We Talked Enough About Hair

Originally written for
 - TamiaWilliams 

Image: 5 Year Old Drip (Bobo hair ties, Clear skin & Sunday's best), 2001

 This is my mom's favorite picture of me as a child. On the back, it's dated Oct/Nov 2001 - Tamia - 5yrs old. I have no recollection of this day, when the picture was taken or the events leading up to this moment. (I do know I went through a phase where I refused to smile without showing my teeth.) Lastly, I remember that hairstyle.

As a child, the weekends were meant for extracurricular activities and washing my hair. Every two weeks my mother would gather my hair products, clean off the kitchen counter, and wash my hair in the sink. I hated wash days as a kid, that meant soap in my eyes, meticulous combing of my hair and tears. I vividly remember the tears, (yo girl is tender-headed).

So when I sing Solange's Don't Touch My Hair I sing it because I'm tender-headed (and also because you should actually never touch a black woman's hair!)

I've learned to love my hair and her many curves, coils, and kinks. She's snappy when combed, defies gravity, and honey her elasticity there is none other like it. (You wouldn't believe this but I wrote this piece on wash day.)

Being in quarantine, I've had an extensive amount of time to take care of my hair. I've experimented with new products, learned that I should be detangling my hair before shampooing it, and observed how certain products activate my coils. I have type 4C hair, with a sprinkle of 4B hair in between. My hair has tightly coiled strands which make her fragile and often form wacky zig-zag patterns. Have you ever seen a knotted slinky? That's how several of the coils on my head look. 

Exhibit A: 
Image: A Messed Up Slinky, Google Images, 2020

4C hair types experience the greatest amount of shrinkage, (I wish I could explain the chemistry behind this phenomena but I can't because I'm a physicist and not a chemist). What I will explain though is the theory of elasticity as presented in that of my hair. 

Exhibit B: 
Image: 4C Hair from my head!, 2020

In physics, there's a law named after this white guy, Robert Hooke, who supposedly had an ongoing feud with another white guy, Issac Newton. Basically, the gag is: 
Image: White Men Scientist Drama from the world of MEMEs, 2020

Anyways Hooke stated that the force needed to extend or compress a spring by some distance (X) is proportional (equivalent) to that distance.

 F= -kX 

 In other words, the amount of strength or energy (force) needed to pull or push (extend or compress) my hair is determined by the length of my hair. 

Now k is what we call our spring constant, which deals with the rigidity (stiffness, healthiness, or damage) of one's hair. k can differ depending on the texture, curl, or coil of your hair. So make sure that you keep that hair moisturized and wrapped up in a satin bonnet. Finally, let's talk about the negative sign (-). In physics, negative signs usually tell us the direction in which our system is moving. So if I pull my hair the force that the strand is feeling is actually in the opposite direction in which I pull it and vice versa if I compress it. Here's a demonstration of me pulling my hair, watch as it springs (haha a physics pun) back once I let it go. That snapback is the force in our equation. 



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?