Thank Goodness for Friction!
January 2, 2024

You’ve heard the term about someone who creates friction. Usually this has a bad connotation and is someone who creates tension. But have you ever stopped to really think about the science of friction and how important it really is?

In our part of the world it’s cold right now! Not only do we have to bundle up, we have to pull out the winter boots to brave a bit of ice and snow. Anyone who has taken a tumble on ice in winter can appreciate the importance of friction.

From matches to machines, friction is one of the most significant phenomena in the physical world. Friction is a force. The two basic types of friction are static and kinetic. Static friction keeps a stationary object at rest. Once the force of static friction is overcome, the force of kinetic friction is what slows down a moving object!

Liquid smooths out a surface, creating less friction. For example, it’s harder for a car to stop on a wet (or ice covered) road than a dry one because the water creates a barrier between the car and the road. The tires don’t have as much contact with the road. Oil in a car engine lubricates the parts so they experience less friction. Friction causes heat, which can damage a car engine. That  same heat is good when you rub your hands together to create friction to warm them up.

Scientists are slightly baffled at the real cause of friction. It is assumed that it is caused due to the rough edges of one object touching the rough edges of another. The actual ‘edges’ could probably only be seen in a microscope or some other highly technological tool, but it is believed that the process actually breaks off part of the rough edges of one or both objects.

This month we feature the Quirkles Friction Fred and how he solves his football team’s problem of falling on the slippery field. Our video demonstrates a very easy example of creating friction using only two things—a spoon and a nose!

So take a moment to appreciate friction. Imagine if we were constantly slipping—off our chairs, down the stairs, or on ice and snow. Life would be treacherous for sure! Thanks to friction, this does not happen. Stay warm this month!