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I have a problem that hopefully one of you wizards could address. When I pack up my work laptop at work everyday I pack the laptop first, then the power cable, then the mouse (with a cable). I do not roll up the cables properly (maybe I should).

For some reason when I come back in the morning and unpack, the power cable and the mouse cable are seemingly interwoven, in an ungodly fashion.

  1. Does anyone know if there is some cosmic law that defines this process?
  2. Are there any hacks in preventing this occurrence?
  • Hi Dean, Welcome to Lifehacks.StackExchange. We hope you enjoy sharing knowledge and experience. Don't forget to visit lifehacks.stackexchange.com/tour for a quick overview of the site. We can be a bit quirky. – Stan Jun 14 at 16:20
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    There are several "Related" questions with solutions that fail to help you for what reason? What have you found wrong or lacking with the "proper" way (whatever that is)? Does your laptop remain at work in storage or do you take it with you to and from home, say? The cosmic law that covers your issue is entropy also known as the second law of thermodynamics. You want to live in the alternate universe of increasing enthalpy referred to as chaos. In that world, before leaving work you'd pack a cable jumble and later unpack an original and new mouse and power cable with twist ties. – Stan Jun 14 at 16:43
  • @Stan +1 for the insight, what a wonderful world anti-chaos would be. – Dean Jun 14 at 16:55
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    This question has been asked several times. You're not the only one experiencing this! If you click here, you'll see the question that includes my answer, which is quick, nearly free, and has always worked for me. – BrettFromLA Jun 14 at 20:35
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A) yes. When you roll up a cable, there is only one state where it unrolls perfectly versus lots of states where it is tangled, and a loose cable easily moves between states.

This also means you can't avoid it completely. But you can reduce the problem:

  1. Roll up each cable properly using the over/under method. This reduces tangling and prolongs cable life because you don't twist the cable as much.
  2. Tie each cable together with one or two velcro cable ties per cable (the two cable ties go on opposite sides).
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Firstly, yes there is a cosmic law that covers cable entanglement... or at least there are papers that propose one. Such papers do concentrate on cables under a desk becoming spontaneously entangled. However, the principles apply to laptop cables. One of the key points of the referenced paper is...

Bendebility β and integrated curvature D are correlated roughly linear. So the number s=D/ β shows less scatter than the other numbers for given classes of cables that actually group around certain values of s

and

In general, we therefore find 0.5 to a few Joule (~3) needed per meter cable length to cause entanglement, or for an event of 10 s duration a power of 0.05 to 0.3 W. This kind of energy scale explains why other linear objects that take more force to bend do not show a tendency to entanglement. It also explains, why fixed cable boundaries (anchors) are generally conserved.

Thus, cables are subject to Entropy as all other objects in the universe.

As for how to prevent it, one of the best scientific studies is by the Osaka Gakuin University.

To quote from its conclusions for your case - multiple cables...

B. Multiple cords and cables: To bundle, to combine, and to unite,
B1. To bundle multiple cords and cables at a place The bundle held with twisting, with tying, with hooking, with fixing in a hole, with adhesion, within a frame, The bundle held with elastic closure, with an elastic spiral belt, with a winding tape
B2. To bundle multiple cords and cables along a certain distance Within a fame, with an elastic spiral belt, with a winding tape
B3. To combine multiple cords and cables into a single united cord/cable By braiding, by winding each other, by attaching side by side, By forming a new united cord/cable, such as a composite cable, a multiplex cable

In other words, tie your cables together. Although for a laptop, that may not be as practicable as it sounds.

  • Wonderful and hilarious. Thanx for the reference, sir. – Stan Jun 14 at 17:05
  • Knot tyers know that string and rope, and vacuum cleaner power cords, behave following the same or similar rules. – Willeke Jun 15 at 18:43
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ZIP lock bag

Put the mouse in a different compartment, or get a (zip lock (or any other)) bag and put the mouse in it. This is how I organize various chargers and stuff in drawers.

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then the mouse (with a cable)

Simple and effective fix: get a wireless mouse. Then you have only one cable, much less likely to tangle.

Bluetooth model or one with a small USB receiver avoid the problem of having to detach the dongle when packing up.

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