Another crucial age-old mystery has been solved: What are the physics and mathematics behind the ponytail?
Once pondered by Leonardo Da Vinci, British scientists at University of Cambridge have used what they call a “Rapunzel Number,” a ratio of information regarding gravity and length, to find an exact “Ponytail Shape Equation.” Their equation as a whole takes in account the stiffness and waviness of individual hairs, gravity, and how a “bundle of hair is swelled by the outward pressure which arises from collisions between the component hairs.”
In a statement, Professor Raymond Goldstein said:
That determines whether the ponytail looks like a fan or whether it arcs over and becomes nearly vertical at the bottom… Our findings extend some central paradigms in statistical physics and show how they can be used to solve a problem that has puzzled scientists and artists ever since Leonardo da Vinci remarked on the fluid-like streamlines of hair in his notebooks 500 years ago.
So, why did we want to know about ponytail physics? These equations could help the understanding of the structure of materials made up of random fibers, such as wool and fur, in addition to aiding those in the computer graphics and animation industry, where it has proven difficult to properly replicate human hair.