The helicity of a localized solenoidal vector field (i.e. the integrated scalar product of the field and its vector potential) is known to be a conserved quantity under 'frozen field ' distortion of the ambient medium. I n this paper we present a number of results concerning the helicity of linked and knotted flux tubes, particularly as regards the topological interpretation of helicity in terms of the Gauss linking number and its limiting form (the CUugBreanu invariant) The helicity of a single knotted flux tube is shown to be intimately related to the CBlugteanu invariant and a new and direct derivation of this topological invariant from the invariance of helicity is given. Helicity is decomposed into writhe and twist contributions. the writhe contribution involving the Gauss integral (for definition. see equation (4.8)). which admits interpretation in terms of the sum of signed crossings of the knot. averaged over all projections. Par t of the twist contribution is shown to be associated with the torsion of the knot and part with what may be described as 'intrinsic twist ' of the field lines in the flux tube around the knot (see equations (5.13) and (5.15)). The generic behaviour associated with the deformation of the knot through a configuration with points of inflexion (points a t which the curvature vanishes) is analysed and the role of the twist parameter is discussed. The derivation of the CBlugBreanu invariant from first principles of fluid mechanics provides a good demonstration of the relevance of fluid dynamical techniques to topological problems. 1
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