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What makes things stick together? Why is that useful and when is it a problem? Where does friction occur and how do you reduce it? Why are some things slippery and others not?
“Sticky: the Secret Science of Surfaces,” by Laurie Winkless answers those questions, and many more. It looks at tribology. She describes tribology as the science of rubbing and scrubbing. In the process, she takes readers on a fascinating – and humorous – trip as she examines every aspect of what makes things stick together or slide apart.
She covers the landscape on stickiness and slipperiness. Along the way, Winkless touches on almost every aspect of her subject and on virtually every level. What makes paint stick? How do race cars stay on the track? What causes earthquakes? What makes a good lubricant? Why do some smooth surfaces stick together, while others slide apart? She examines each of these issues, and many more.
She spends a chapter on geckos. That is a natural. These are creatures that can walk on ceilings seemingly effortlessly. They stick to the ceiling, but only for as long as they want to. How they did so baffled scientists for centuries. Winkless reveals the geckos’ secret using cutting-edge science for the explanation.
Some paths she takes explore things you may not think of involving stickiness. She looks at both swimming and curling. How friction and slipperiness work is critical to victory in both sports. The mechanics involved provide unexpected surprises. One fascinating lesson of this discussion is how much of the study of surfaces is empirical. Predictions based on mathematics frequently fail, even today.
She also examines things on different levels. She looks at continent-size tectonic plates rubbing against each other. She also examines friction on an atomic level. And she looks at just about everything in between. She illustrates everything with concrete examples, which range the globe, and even into outer space.
“Sticky” is a delightful romp through science. Winkless loves her field and her enthusiasm is endearing. For those wishing to learn more (her enthusiasm is contagious) she offers opportunities for readers to explore on their own, offering numerous web links and reading recommendations along the way.
It does not take a rocket scientist to understand her explanations. She also has a knack for reducing complicated concepts into understandable prose. She offers insight into the science of surfaces, wrapped in an entertaining and highly-illustrated story.
“Sticky: the Secret Science of Surfaces,” by Laurie Winkless, Bloomsbury Sigma, 2022, 336 pages, $28.00 (Hardcover), $9.99 (ebook)
This review was written by Mark Lardas who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City, TX. His website is marklardas.com.Published in