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Watch scientists investigate the physics of trick roping

How is it that a cowboy can twirl a rope so that it forms a perfect lasso?

That's the question a group of French scientists set out to answer, as WorldCrunch reports. It's also the topic of the above recent New York Times video.

According to WorldCrunch, Frenchmen Basile Audoly, Pierre-Thomas Brun, and Neil Ribe are all specialists in "elastic and hanging threads," a category that "includes hair, trickles of honey, transatlantic submarine communications cable, or even DNA molecules." Now add to this list a cowboy's lasso.

Researchers conducted this study by — duh! — watching Jesus Garcilazo, a professional roper from Disneyland Paris, perform some tricks. They also invented a robot arm that could twirl a lasso, then compared its movements with the professional's.

Why were the researchers interested in how lassos work? Simple — because, as one researcher explained to WorldCrunch, scientists are interested in "understanding how different objects behave in similar ways." As the narrator of the Times video says, the real purpose of this study was "to understand the math that underlies the real world." As LiveScience writes, the scientists's findings could be applied to other industries, such as textile manufacturing and computer graphics.

Not all of the findings were so academic. Researchers also discovered two practical tips for those interested in roping: 70 percent of the rope needs to be part of the loop, and it needs to be spun twice per second to maintain a flat loop.

If this explanation and the video above are too basic for you and you'd like some equations — because we never get enough equations! — check out this scholarly article. (Warning: your head may burst.)

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