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  1. The presence of incomplete cuts in a thin planar sheet can dramatically alter its mechanical and geometrical response to loading, as the cuts allow the sheet to deform strongly in the third dimension, most beautifully demonstrated in kirigami art-forms. We use numerical experiments to characterize the geometric mechanics of kirigamized sheets as a function of the number, size and orientation of cuts. We show that the geometry of mechanically loaded sheets can be approximated as a composition of simple developable units: flats, cylinders, cones and compressed Elasticae. This geometric construction yields scaling laws for the mechanical response of the sheet in both the weak and strongly deformed limit. In the ultimately stretched limit, this further leads to a theorem on the nature and form of geodesics in an arbitrary kirigami pattern, consistent with observations and simulations. Finally, we show that by varying the shape and size of the geodesic in a kirigamized sheet, we can control the deployment trajectory of the sheet, and thence its functional properties as an exemplar of a tunable structure that can serve as a robotic gripper, a soft light window or the basis for a physically unclonable device. Overall our study of disordered kirigami sets the stage for controlling the shape and shielding the stresses in thin sheets using cuts. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2024
  3. Controlling the connectivity and rigidity of kirigami, i.e. the process of cutting paper to deploy it into an articulated system, is critical in the manifestations of kirigami in art, science and technology, as it provides the resulting metamaterial with a range of mechanical and geometric properties. Here, we combine deterministic and stochastic approaches for the control of rigidity in kirigami using the power of k choices, an approach borrowed from the statistical mechanics of explosive percolation transitions. We show that several methods for rigidifying a kirigami system by incrementally changing either the connectivity or the rigidity of individual components allow us to control the nature of the explosive transition by a choice of selection rules. Our results suggest simple lessons for the design of mechanical metamaterials. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2024
  4. The persistence of imperfect mimicry in nature presents a challenge to mimicry theory. Some hypotheses for the existence of imperfect mimicry make differing predictions depending on how mimetic fidelity is measured. Here, we measure mimetic fidelity in a brood parasite–host system using both trait-based and response-based measures of mimetic fidelity. Cuckoo finchesAnomalospiza imberbislay imperfectly mimetic eggs that lack the fine scribbling characteristic of eggs of the tawny-flanked priniaPrinia subflava, a common host species. A trait-based discriminant analysis based on Minkowski functionals—that use geometric and topological morphometric methods related to egg pattern shape and coverage—reflects this consistent difference between host and parasite eggs. These methods could be applied to quantify other phenotypes including stripes and waved patterns. Furthermore, by painting scribbles onto cuckoo finch eggs and testing their rate of rejection compared to control eggs (i.e. a response-based approach to quantify mimetic fidelity), we show that prinias do not discriminate between eggs based on the absence of scribbles. Overall, our results support relaxed selection on cuckoo finches to mimic scribbles, since prinias do not respond differently to eggs with and without scribbles, despite the existence of this consistent trait difference.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2024
  5. Geometric graph models of systems as diverse as proteins, DNA assemblies, architected materials and robot swarms are useful abstract representations of these objects that also unify ways to study their properties and control them in space and time. While much work has been done in the context of characterizing the behaviour of these networks close to critical points associated with bond and rigidity percolation, isostaticity, etc., much less is known about floppy, underconstrained networks that are far more common in nature and technology. Here, we combine geometric rigidity and algebraic sparsity to provide a framework for identifying the zero energy floppy modes via a representation that illuminates the underlying hierarchy and modularity of the network and thence the control of its nestedness and locality. Our framework allows us to demonstrate a range of applications of this approach that include robotic reaching tasks with motion primitives, and predicting the linear and nonlinear response of elastic networks based solely on infinitesimal rigidity and sparsity, which we test using physical experiments. Our approach is thus likely to be of use broadly in dissecting the geometrical properties of floppy networks using algebraic sparsity to optimize their function and performance.

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  6. Combing hair involves brushing away the topological tangles in a collective curl, defined as a bundle of interacting elastic filaments. Using a combination of experiment and computation, we study this problem that naturally links topology, geometry and mechanics. Observations show that the dominant interactions in hair are those of a two-body nature, corresponding to a braided homochiral double helix. This minimal model allows us to study the detangling of an elastic double helix driven by a single stiff tine that moves along it and leaves two untangled filaments in its wake. Our results quantify how the mechanics of detangling correlates with the dynamics of a topological quantity, the link density, that propagates ahead of the tine and flows out the free end as a link current. This in turn provides a measure of the maximum characteristic length of a single combing stroke in the many-body problem on a head of hair, producing an optimal combing strategy that balances trade-offs between comfort, efficiency and speed of combing in hair curls of varying geometrical and topological complexity. 
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  7. Significance

    Understanding how development and evolution shape functional morphology is a basic question in biology. A paradigm of this is the finch’s beak that has adapted to different diets and behaviors over millions of years. We take a mathematical and physical perspective to quantify the nature of beak shape variations, how they emerge from changes to the development program of the birds, and their functional significance as a mechanical tool.

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