How do knots form in things, without you trying? Random perturbation results in a move towards a stable configuration. What is it about the construction of the system and its environment that makes this possible, and probable? The science of knots will be important some day. We'll want to design in - or out - spontaneous knotting. Like power laws happen in city size and earthquakes and newspapers, what sort of systems encourage them?
I've had this a couple of times recently, taking off my shoes. Whatever I do, the knot gets worse. Usually when I'm drunk. I have to tug the shoe off and tackle it in the morning.
Another excerpt from The Blank Slate, this time a quote from a letter from Khrushchev to Kennedy on the Cuban Missile Crisis:
"You and I should not not pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied a knot of war, because the harder you and I pull, the tighter this knot will become. And a time may come when this knot is tied so tight that the person who tied it is no longer capable of untying it, and then the knot will have to be cut."