# The special case of a rope at absolute zero

April 16 2002 at 9:51 AM

Is a rope at absolute zero stiff, or is it flexible?

If rigid, it can be used like a pole, and thus would be a tool suitable for pushing. The next question is: what could do the pushing, since as I understand absolute zero, in theory nothing moves when at absolute zero, (since all of the molecules are stopped) and so no motive force could apply the push.

On the other hand, if you are insulated from that absolute zero inside a space ship with external arms that can manipulate things, and for some reason you chose this stiff rope as your pushing tool (why? Not sure, since using the arms themselves seems more efficient) then I suppose on could move the arms and push something with a rope. But why go to all the trouble? Not sure of that either, but then again,

F = Ma, and you can't push a rope

is derived from the sarcstic answer to the question "What did you learn in one semester of Physics I?"

More knotty problems.

"Rope," in nautical parlance, is by definition metallic strands woven into a rope, whereas "line" is made of manilla, hemp, etc. So, if someone on a sail boat asks you to pull on a line, do not grab the metallic mast stays, and if he asks you to splice a rope, you will be working with metal.

But back to our pushable rope. At nautical absolute zero, (unlike statute absolute zero, where everything is as still as a stone) there would likely not be any water content to freeze in a rope, but I reckon even the nautical space rope would be pretty darned stiff and thus pushable. Once again, a stranded stiff length of metal might better be called a pole, rather than a rope. Here we delve into semantics, not physics. :-o

Which leads us to the following epiphanous question:

Is a frozen rope really a pole at the South Pole?

This gets us to:

Q: When is a rope not a rope? When it's a pole. (From When is a door not a door, when it's ajar.)

And thus the further inquiry:

When is a Pole not a Pole?
When he's the Pope, like Pope John Pole II.

This relates to the usual answer to a question that has an obvious answer:

Q: "Is that Obsidian ring of the Zodiac Duped?"

A: "Is the Pope Polish?"

There, I think we ought to poll everyone and see if, having been given enough rope, I have pushed back the clouds of misunderstanding, and can be charged with statutory, versus nauticalatory, digression. Nautical story digression is confined to the works of Melville, such as "Billy Budd."

*wander off in search of an anti-caffeine pill*

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