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So many different contradictory interpretations can be found about these topics that
naturally I want to add my two pence to that mixed lot.

A little warming introduction  : Handedness

short digression on handedness
There is an almost constant proportion (10 to 15%) of left-handed persons in a human
primates population. The reason why is not really known.
This trait is more a male attribute than female one.

Do you know what being "Kerr-handed" means ? (Scottish)
BODMER, W. and McKIE, R. :
The Book of Man: the Quest to Discover Our Genetic Heritage. London: Little, Brown
and Co. (pub.) 1994. Pp. 1-5
[begin quote]
"Whereas in most castles staircases spiral clockwise, Ferniehirst has counter-clockwise
ones, providing left-handed swordsmen with an advantage, the bends giving a defender's left
 hand freedom to move over the open railing. The association between the Kerr name and
left-handedness was such that throughout Scotland the expression Kerr-handed, or kerry-
or corry-fisted, is said to be commonly used to mean left-handed."
[end quote]

Of course this left-handedness could very well have been acquired  by swordsmen by

Beware of attribution of "right-handedness" to  palaeolithic artists made by looking at their
They may have been in fact, in some cases, left-handed by preference but with a right hand
that allowed them to work with it ;  the use of the right hand could have been imposed by
the direction of the source of light or some other consideration.
All that can be stated is " done with the right-hand" which do not give the right to state 
"done by a right-handed" artist.

Contrary to what some persons wrote on the Net non human primates do show 'lateralised

Even non primate animals show it.

[begin quote]
- - - Cats have "paw dominance" similar to the right-handedness and left-handedness...
Owners will have noticed that some cats tend to prefer one paw over the other for
manipulating objects while others use either paw.
Studies indicate that 20% of cats are right-pawed; 38.3% of cats are left pawed and the
remaining 41.7% are ambidextrous. Preferences are determined by the part of the brain called
the sensori-motor cerebral cortex.
Paw dominance is fixed and can be modified only slightly by environmental factors, such as
convenience for reaching something
[end quote]

- - - There is genetic variation in paw preference (so called handedness) in the mouse
- - - There is laterality (asymmetry) in sea-urchins internal organization.

Writing of the above using the word  'handedness' will just sign at best a total absence of humility
in the observer who is attributing to the 'observed' what is only one of his own attributes.

Invoking our human primate lateralization under "right / left" dichotomy is just a commodity
conventionally admitted but by no mean 'universal' : just an example taken in Napoleon's army .
( A. PIGEARD : L'armée de Napoléon. Organisation et vie quotidienne, Ed. Tallandier,
2000, p. 194-195. )

In this 'Grande Armée' that swept all over Europe, the conscripts were so lacking in education
that they had no concept of 'right / left'  handedness though  they had a clear notion of their
lateralization : so in their galoshes small bunches of straw and hay were put to differentiate the
side and the command instead of gauche / droite  -  right/left  was "paille-foin"/"straw-hay" as 
for these peasants this was as clear as the day.
In later armies the 'straw-hay' were put under the "épaulette" / shoulder straps.
End of digression

Handedness is neuro-behavioural laterality (laterality : asymmetry -  some pathologies are
more frequent in left-handed persons).
Handedness is manual specialization .

Are you ready to attribute 'neurobehavioural' as a qualifier to a cordage or a knot ?

Why this persistence in using 'handedness' ?
Is it out respect for 'tradition' ?
If that is the motive well I suggest to bring light to houses with  resinous torchlights and only use
as medication 'herbal lore', that should show the respect in which tradition handed down is held.
By the way no electric current, no TV, no computer : go the backward way in time, that is it!
No man-made fibres for cordages : only vegetable or animal.

Even using the word  'handedness' in the study of animals ( human primates, non-human primates,
or non primate ) instead of the word 'lateralization' just makes it easy for another confusion of
concept and logical planes to happen :
handedness hides that it is necessary to separate what is strict lateralization (neurological,
anatomical, structural...) from preference (psychological choice, behaviour what ever the source).

Manual lateralization, specialization, has two components :  'preference' and 'performance' .

It does not seems to me a so good idea to use a  "reference point' resident in the speaker or the
writer  instead of taking it in a larger frame common to all interacting persons.
( that is showing great 'hubris', hubris in the modern meaning of the word, not on its original
one of course)
This is self-reference or auto-reference, it is a road leading to paradoxes and fallacies.

How would you like to be issued road maps with "Front, Back, Left, Right" instead of
North, South, West, East ?
Do not guffaw at my preposterous idea please.
People using 'handedness' for cordage and knots are issuing such maps !

To my way of thinking  it makes better sense to put points of reference on a larger frame, 
resultis 'as if' it was a 'constant'.
At least use a 'process' that does not depend on the 'internal' attributes of the observer /
user / speaker but on something 'external' that can be thought of 'as if' it is non changing.

The 'concept' behind this misnomer 'handedness' is that despite change of its position, an
entity that has 'handedness' can always be 'oriented', it has 'in-built orientability' :
- - take a billiard ball without any mark on it ,  after it has been made to roll ten persons
could not to save their lives show which point of it was up before the roll ( changes of
position ).
- - Now take a plastic model of a hand, surface perfectly unmarked :
make those persons take note of the part that point up (even a blind person can)  throw it
in the air twirling  like a majorette stick (changing many time its position) and catch it.
Even the blind person will be able to point the part that was up before the throw : this is
Take note that this is not dependent on geometrical properties but on topological ones :
 use a small or a large ball you get the same situation.
Change the size of the hand small or big or  use a hand with very long pianist fingers or
with short fingers orientability will still be there even when geometry that is 'length and/or
angle' have been changed.

A Möbius band is non orientable.
It has no right and no left edge for instance.
One face and one border so were is the left (right)border ? or the recto (verso) ?

If its surface is unmarked you cannot tell which part was up after having had it rolled like
a conveyor belt between your two index finger.
Yet there is a left and a right Möbius band readily identifiable one from the other ( mirror
one of the other ) depending on the way the torsion by an half-turn is.

Use the template I give in another page to do the two forms of Möbius strip and play
with them.
You will not need to eventually use the special ink to put a mark  visible under 'black light'
 as the 'tails' will give you a mark that signal a very special place on the surface ; that is the
difference between ideal theoretical object and a knot.

Right/left is not very "robust" to change of perspective, clockwise/anticlockwise is a bit
more robust, Compass points (magnetic) are still more robust ...



'Right" is the side where most people have their dominant (most often used) hand.
Still some ( 10-15%) are "Left" ;-)

As already explained  I would rather not use 'Handedness' for inert entities.
I think this word  should be strictly restricted to living creatures having hands.

Handedness is a psycho-motor attribute about preference about which side of the body to 
put to use,  this side is called 'dominant'.

Instead of handedness, better use  :

- "Z"  /  "S" 

-  Indirect ( that is clockwise)"  / "Direct or Trigonometric... rotation, migration, lateralization 
as is the case.

I prefer 'direct' / 'indirect' as it take minds off their set way with 'left' /'right' or clockwise / 
anti-clockwise and force to 'think anew'.

"Z / S" is a standardization  that any specialist working in the field of "textiles" is using with 
no 'second thought' to avoid any misunderstanding. 

Why not use Z/S as everyday language with cordages and knots ? 

"Z" / "S" is not really just a question of looking solely at the direction of 'turns' as this simple
example show.
clove lateralization
. show it too.

It is the conjunction of 'turning" PLUS 'altitude' ( High / Low - Over/Under) of the crossing 
that leads to the correct answer

I feel it is very important to be quite at ease with direction of 'rotation' and direction of '
progress of successive rotations'.

The more so when battling the obsolete "With the sun" / "Against the sun" , or the sometimes 
misunderstood "Clockwise"/ "Anticlockwise" the more so when used in conjunction with 
"with the lay" / "against the lay".

Following are some results of using a formal way to determine "Z" or "S" orientation of a
knot :
- about overhand
- about bowlines. A slight problem is that an inside tail bowline, so called "right" can be
 either a "Z" or an "S" one.
- about lark's head
- about sheet and becket bend and you should be convinced that it is better to leave all
mention of "right" / "left" in favour of "Z" and "S". Sheet bend study and becket compared
to Lap/Lapp bend
- a particular case : Fig-8 , an achiral or amphichiral/amphicheiral knot.
- another achiral knot.

Rule : sign all the crossings , then sign with highest frequency is the lateralization.
Equality of "+" and "-" = achirality.
Note : count can only be done with correct answer on a "final stable state" knot.

( subject to contradiction by reality )



This one is the simplest of the lot.

Crossed and Crossing strands are oriented .

Against the lay = that is with a Z cordage going  as an S strand is going ; with an S cordage
going as a Z strand is going.
With the lay = with a Z strand it is going as a Z strand is going, with an S strand as an S
strand is going

Note that to get a "Z" strand or so-called 'right' or 'clockwise' while holding the strands
between your two hands, you have :

- - -either to keep one extremity of the strands fixed with the left hand and with  right hand
 turn the other extremity opposite the direction in which the hands of a clock move, that is
anti-clockwise  ( alternatively if using  your left hand for the torque applying a clockwise
twist , the right hand maintaining the other extremity fixed ).

- -  -or apply a torque to both extremities so that  left hand is giving  a clockwise twist while
right hand is applying an anti-clockwise torque.

This is hopeless as some will take the move of the left hand as reference and other will take
the move of the right hand. as 'denomination'.  

Better not to qualify the "lay direction" with the words 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' as this
refer to a twist /torque/rotation direction (procedure) while a 'linear' direction such as 'right'
and 'left' (result obtained)  are words used to state lay direction too .

The 'lay direction" is the resulting fixed state after 'laying' while 'clockwise'/'anticlockwise
refer to the direction of the movement used in the procedure applied to obtain the result.
Confusion of logical planes it is in my mind map that mix of result and procedure.
Like confounding the recipe with the dish.
Just try it next time you are hungry if you think the distinction is pedantic or finicky.

I do think it is  " grand temps" /  'high time'  for the ISO standard "Z / S" to be fully
acknowledged by people who should have been the first to pounce on it : knotters!
BISFA- Bureau International pour la Standardisation des Fibres Artificielles
 is an association of man-made fibres producers founded in 1928

Muddle happen too when stating that laid cordage must be coiled "with the lay"!

Fat precision it is when one is not even sure that the lay is to be said clockwise or
anti-clockwise and that anyway that is only half the parameters needed.
This will works only with learning the way to do it "par coeur"/"by heart" or rather
for you "by rote", and the best way is to put in 'in the muscles and ligaments memory banks',
thinking brain is by-passed.

With the 'right' tool ( "Z" "S", sign of crossings, centripetal or centrifugal progression of
the coiling ) it is easier to 'understand' rather than to simply 'remember and recall'.


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Copyright 2005 Sept - Charles Hamel / Nautile -
Overall rewriting in August 2006 . Copyright renewed. 2007-2012 -(each year of existence)

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