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3.1. Bounce


How To Invent (Almost) Anything > 3. A Simple Science Lens > 3.1. Bounce

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Think of a heavy supermarket trolley going over rough concrete. Although the wheels help you move it, the trolley still has to rise and fall over the bumps, and the size and shape of the bumps will change how much force you need overall to move the trolley forwards.

Now zoom into the microscopic view of a block of wood being pushed along a table (Fig. 3.1). The same thing is happening! The molecules from the wood and the table are snagging against one another making the wood bounce imperceptibly on its way. With a larger, heavier block of wood, you might be able to feel the juddering. All surfaces have some bumps, unless they are so fine they have one nearly smooth layer of atoms (and then other factors, such as electrostatic forces, are important).

So a way of reducing friction is to smooth out the bumps. Oil partly works this way, filling in the gaps between the bumps. Sometimes, you may want to increase the friction, such as when you need a rug to stay where it is and not slide across the floor. In either case, you may want to change the size and shape of the bumps or the effect they have, both on the thing that is being pushed and on the surface on which it is moving.

Fig. 3.1 Friction bounce


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