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Socks’ science

Usually when one takes all the laundry out of the washing machine or the drier the result is a massive pile of tangled clothes. And mostly socks are the last to be sorted. The reason? Looking for the second sock is a time taking activity and honestly – not the most exciting one. But it turns out that even scientists had paid attention to this supposedly small issue.

Computer scientists Brian Christian and professor Tom Griffith in their book “Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions” explains how the techniques of computer science can help manage everyday routine, including sorting socks.

The authors have described an algorithm that helps you find the matching sock in a more efficient way.  First of all, they calculated that it takes four times longer to find two couples of socks than finding one couple. And it takes twenty-five times longer to find five couples. Mathematically speaking – time that is needed to find couples of socks is calculated by squaring the number of these pairs. To avoid this, the authors suggest to use a special algorithm. The term algorithm might seem rather scaring, so it is suggested to see it as a recipe. And by following it step by step a person can save time and energy while sorting all the socks.

The main thing in this “recipe” is to create sorting categories. For socks it could be, first of all, the colour. So you need to sort them, for instance, in following piles – completely black, black with stripes and symbols, colourful and white ones. Then you take one pile and sort them in smaller groups according another quality, for instance, the length. By this time, you should be able to see clearly the couples. If the number of socks is really big (in family with two kids the laundry can be huge) then you can make extra categories, such as children/adult, thin/thick ones or how much are they worn-out. By following this simple formula, you will quickly deal even with the scariest pile of socks.

Of course, there is still a possibility to find one lonely sock at the bottom of the pile with no idea what's become of its partner. And it might seem that there is no math that could solve what’s happing to the lost socks. Wrong!

There are scientists that have calculated a formula which includes different factors related to loosing socks. SOOKI family finds it interesting enough to share.

The 'Sock Loss Index': (L(p x f) + C(t x s)) - (P x A).

 In the formula, 'L' stands for 'laundry size' which is calculated by multiplying the number of people in the household (p) with the frequency of washes in a week (f).

'C' stands for the 'washing complexity.' This includes how many types of wash (t) households do in a week (darks and whites) multiplied by the number of socks washed in a week (s).

'P', or 'positivity towards doing the laundry' is measured on a scale of 1 being 'Strongly dislike doing clothes washing' to 5 which represents 'Strongly enjoy doing clothes’.

'A' stands for 'degree of attention'. This is the sum whether washers check pockets, unroll sleeves, turn clothes the right way and unroll socks before a wash.

To put it simply – the possibility to lose socks depends on the complexity of laundry and the attitude towards doing the laundry. As well as on the ability of washing-machine to “eat” the socks, the Lonely Sock Elf and black holes.

SOKKI family has three kids; thus the usual pile of laundry is not a tiny one. Still, since the family got their first SOKKI pairs, sorting socks is much easier as the beautiful SOKKI stands out. Also, the distinguishing marks for left and right foot – the letters R and L – helps in the process. Of course, it does not solve the issue of lost socks. Although every SOKKI pair is a special one and it is noticed that the pair usually finds its owner in its full composition.

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