Make your socks last longer with a Euclidean rubber glove switch

Your left hand and right hand are mirror images of each other. There's no way you can position your left hand so that it looks like a right hand. It will only look like a right hand if you look at it in a mirror.

There are molecules like this in chemistry. Molecules that can't be positioned in such a way as to look exactly like their own mirror image. These are called chiral molecules. We talk about them having a handedness because they share this property with our hands.

But what about rubber gloves? You might think that a left handed rubber glove can't be positioned in such a way as to look like a right handed glove. But turning a glove inside out does exactly that!

That's why in chemistry, a chiral molecule that can be manipulated into it's own mirror image, is called a Euclidean rubber glove.

So what about socks? When you first buy a pair of socks, left and right look exactly the same. They don't have this chiral property. But after you've worn them a while and put a hole in with your big toe, they do.

So if you've got a big toe hole in your sock, you can make it more comfortable by turning it inside out. The hole will switch to the other side where your toes are less likely to poke out.

  • guest

    Or just put them on the other foot ! 

    • Steve Mould

       Ah, a common response :) . But I’d say two things…

      The inside out trick gives you another option. Like if the other sock also has an inconveniently placed hole.

      And it’s a bit quicker, when you pull a sock off it goes a bit inside out anyway.

  • Tom

    Totally been meaning to search your name since I saw one of your talks in Liverpool a few months back, pleasantly surprised by this awesome blog. 
    You might remember me, I asked you and the two other maths/science people there what your favourite fractals were

    • Steve Mould

      Hey Tom, glad you like the blog.

      That was a great question about fractals!