Which factors influence the frictional force

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In linguistic usage, friction has a negative connotation: friction disrupts harmony, we want processes to run smoothly. And yet friction is useful in our everyday lives: when making a fire, when steering, even when writing. And since da Vinci, the physics of friction has been a topical research area.

By: Sabine Schmitt & Stefan Gneiting, a film by Wolfgang Voelker

Status: 02.02.2012

The frictional force occurs wherever two bodies touch. It is directed against the direction of movement and therefore has a braking effect. It is the reason that sledges stop at some point and that Suse cannot push her wardrobe through the room so easily. But there are also tricks that can be used to reduce friction: sleds with polished steel runners slide more easily than those with rough wooden runners, and an empty wardrobe is easier to move than a full one.

But would our lives become easier if we eliminated friction everywhere? Definitely not, because friction is useful in many areas: The girls in the film use frictional heat to make a fire; a technique that was already used by the Stone Age people. Today we use the friction between the rim and the brake shoes to bring the bike to a stop in time and we use shoes with treaded soles so that we can safely walk up a mountain. Friction also does valuable work for us when it comes to grinding, sanding and grinding. And the film shows that if we eliminated friction altogether, we would not even be able to walk.

When moving around the room, the cartoon character Suse also has to painfully experience that friction is not always a hindrance, even when doing heavy work such as moving furniture. And by the way, we learn with it which factors influence friction, what means can be used to increase or decrease it and where it is in no way possible to do without it.