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Statistical mechanics of a cat's cradle


It is believed that, much like a cat's cradle, the cytoskeleton can be thought of as a network of strings under tension. We show that both regular and random bond-disordered networks having bonds that buckle upon compression exhibit a variety of phase transitions as a function of temperature and extension. The results of self-consistent phonon calculations for the regular networks agree very well with computer simulations at finite temperature. The analytic theory also yields a rigidity onset ( mechanical percolation) and the fraction of extended bonds for random networks. There is very good agreement with the simulations by Delaney et al ( 2005 Europhys. Lett. 72 990). The mean field theory reveals a nontranslationally invariant phase with self-generated heterogeneity of tautness, representing 'antiferroelasticity'.

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