Movie Simulation Technology Predicts Cable Coiling Patterns in the Lab
The 550,000 miles of undersea fiber-optic cables that transmit e-mail and other data around the world are typically unfurled from large spools on ships. A rip or tangle anywhere can lead to transmission glitches and data loss, and significantly slow down global telecommunications. Now Professor Pedro Reis and colleagues at MIT and Columbia University have developed a method to predict the pattern of coils and tangles that a cable may form when deployed onto a rigid surface. The researchers say the coil-predicting method, which is based on model experiments, scaling analyses and computational tools that were originally developed in the context of computer animation for the movies to simulate the motion of hair and clothing, may help design better deployment strategies for the cables to avoid damage and increase their resilience.