Manacles

Two school girls standing in front of an exhibition table. They are two ropes intertwined between them.

Topology (the mathematics of how things are connected) can be used to demonstrate whether things are truly linked.

How it works

Two people put on interlocking manacles or handcuffs. They must work out how they can untangle themselves from each other without removing the manacles from their wrists. This puzzle relies on patience, lateral thinking skills and topology.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • Where can you see gaps within the loops?
  • Should we focus on the long piece of the rope, or the ends of the ropes?

Background

The branch of mathematics that deals with how things are connected is called topology. Although topology is a very abstract branch of mathematics, you find it in everyday events such as knitting (made from one continuous strand), or in fabrics that do not unravel when a fibre breaks.