By Tyler Vance
Walking outside recently, many people have been struck by the realization that each breath is now producing a small cloud of nicotine-free smoke. Further observation will soon lead to the ghostly image of water, once so fluid and happy, now petrified into shiny wells of slippery danger. With the coming of ice comes the dawn of such great activities as sledding and skating, but it also leads to the now treacherous walks that haunt our waking hours.
This unfortunate danger is caused by a reduction in that mythical force called friction, which is a material-dependent entity that resists the relative motion of two objects in contact with each other. This resistance can occur either between two objects that are stationary (static friction), or between two objects that are moving relative to one another (kinetic friction). The strength of each is determined by their respectful coefficients of friction: scalar quantities with differing values for differing surfaces and environmental conditions. So, as winter slides in, these coefficients will slowly decline due to all the aforementioned solidified H2O. Yet with friction decreasing beneath our feet, and friction increasing in our Southern neighbours’ political race, I wonder if North America is at a net change of 0.
STATIC AND KINETIC PARTICIPATE IN A COEFFICIENTS DEBATE WITHIN THE MIND OF DERANGED SCIENCE MAJOR
MODERATOR: ARTHUR-JULES MORIN
MORIN: Good evening from the cluttered mind of some overworked science major. My name is Arthur-Jules Morin, from the University of Legendary Physics, and we are here for the first of many Coefficients Debates. Over the past few decades we have accumulated a number of questions from concerned citizens of the physical world that will provide the direction for this debate. I am sure both candidates will operate against their urges to go over time, for we want to reach as many questions as possible. And now, please join me in welcoming our coefficients.
MORIN: Gentle-measurements, thank you for coming this evening. As you both know from empirical observation, STATIC won the coin-toss, so this question will be directed to him first.
QUESTION #1: Hello. I am from the Northern states and winter is approaching soon. Being a mother of three I am often concerned about the safety of my children during this difficult time. What will you, as the coefficient for static friction, do to ensure my children’s safety?
STATIC: Well, first I would like to thank you for being here during this episodic mental charade. You’ve asked a really great question, one that plagues a lot of parents. As winter approaches, we find that a lot of the surfaces that we once found rough and safe are no longer so. Roads become covered with ice, reducing the once steadfast grip of our tires; sidewalks become deathtraps. It seems almost like two surfaces just can’t interact with any level of consistency anymore.
However, as the coefficient for static friction I can tell you that it is my duty and solemn responsibility to make sure that your shoes and your tires remain planted firmly in place. While some other candidates have tried to claim the monopoly on motion related issues, almost all of our everyday activities rely on two surfaces remaining static whilst in contact. The Static friction party has, and always will have, a solid mandate of opposing any motion between two surfaces in contact, thereby facilitating such essential everyday habits as walking, driving and even just standing still. Whenever your children take a step I will be there to ensure their safety. When your family is driving up to your mom’s house for Thanksgiving, I will be watching all four tires. You have my word.
MORIN: KINETIC, the question pertains to the subject of children’s safety during the winter.
KINETIC: Thank you, Morin, and — sorry, what was your name, Miss?
QUESTION #1: Coulomb.
KINETIC: And thank you, Miss Coulomb, for your wonderful question. I must agree with my rival that this time of year is difficult for us all. The ice will be here soon and we shall all have to prepare ourselves for it. But, while STATIC claims that he will “oppose all motion between two surfaces,” I am afraid to say that he mis-spoke. What he meant to say was that he will “oppose all motion between two surfaces up to his set Fmax at which point he will give up entirely and let gravity do the rest.” This is an unfortunate truth, but a truth nonetheless. Static friction has shown the people of the physical world time and time again that the big promises they make of resolve and steadfast interactions only last so long. And I think we all know what happens after they let it slide!
In spite of the dangers of winter and the headaches they cause parents, which I can empathize with, I know that my children love winter. They love going outside in the fresh air and staying active and healthy by skiing, sledding and skating. As you all know, these pastimes can be hazardous as well as fun. That’s why kinetic friction is there to regulate the motion of the two surfaces by applying consistent force opposite to the motion. When your kid is at the top of the hill about to go down on some flimsy piece of plastic, STATIC’s role ends as soon as they start moving. The rest of the way down I will be there to maintain a resistive force against over-zealous gravitational efforts, and at the bottom of the hill, as gravity stops, I will prevent a Newton’s First Law fiasco of never-ending movement. Then, and only then, will my esteemed opponent wake up and realize that anything has actually happened.
MORIN: STATIC, I know you have a response to that.
STATIC: You bet I do. These allegations about dropping the ball or “letting it slide” are — are just ridiculous, especially coming from kinetic friction. Many years ago, my party worked together with the auto industry to increase safety during the winter. Our goal was to protect the citizens of the physical world from the inadequacies of kinetic friction.
If we can recall for a moment that anti-lock brakes were designed so that when a person slams on the — the brakes in response to some obstacle on the road — which there are plenty of, I’m afraid to say — the tires will keep rolling for a little while longer. Why would you want that? It is because rolling provides way more traction than sliding, which, as KINETIC pointed out, is his domain. Due to the horrible inadequacies of kinetic friction, it is actually better for a vehicle’s wheels to keep spinning than to come to a complete stop and slide. Therefore, the strength of Static friction keeps everyone, including you, Miss Coulomb, safe and sou—
KINETIC: I can’t see how your inability to maintain your “domain” of work is my fault.
STATIC: Anti-lock brakes are just another proof of our—
KINETIC: Tell that to the kid at the top of the hill.
MORIN: Gentle-measurements . . .
STATIC: You couldn’t tell that to the kid at the top of the hill if it wasn’t for static friction, as he’d never stay put again!
MORIN: Please, we need to move on. We have another question from a concerned citizen. This one is for you, KINETIC.
KINETIC: Good; I welcome it. Hello there.
QUESTION #2: Hello. I was wondering how you intend to foster good relations with your environmental variables, as well as with other forces that operate daily on physical objects?
KINETIC: An interesting and extremely relevant question in this day and age. As you are probably aware, being a coefficient of friction isn’t just a material quality; it is a system quality. This means that everything from the consistency of the surface to the temperature and atmospheric properties have to be considered. It can be a lot of factors to juggle, but I ran on a platform of Dynamic Friction and I intend to work in concert with our environment.
As for the other forces at work, I believe we have to try and maintain a healthy relationship with both the forces that aid us and those that oppose us. The Normal Force is one of our strongest allies, being the force created from the pressing of two surfaces together. It provides us with the quantitative language necessary to express our magnitudes and goals against the forces that offer resistance. With its help, we should maintain a peaceful state with our fellow forces.
MORIN: STATIC, it is all yours. The question relates to the etiquette with which a coefficient interacts with its surroundings and foreign forces.
STATIC: Thanks, Morin. That is indeed a great question, especially at such tense times as these. My rival has mentioned many important points that I wish to rectify in his wake. I do agree that we must foster relationships with our allies, such as the aforementioned Normal Force. That said, the kinetic administration has portrayed friction to foreign forces as weak, allowing them to rally against our magnitude and direction.
It is time to get tough on Gravity, which acts against us more often than not. In order to create a strong image for friction, we require a large magnitude of force, one that KINETIC cannot provide. It is a fundamental fact that the coefficient of static friction is always stronger than that of kinetic friction. When it comes time to provide a force of friction to counteract the components of gravity, the Normal Force will require the factor whose strength is up to the challenge to aid it.
KINETIC: It is interesting that you should call it a fundamental fact. Is that a fact for all surfaces?
STATIC: To my knowle—
KINETIC: So your knowledge never encompassed the experiments done on dual surfaces of Teflon, where the two coefficients were pretty much equal in magnitude?
STATIC: And how often in life do two surfaces of Teflon inter—
KINETIC: Well, if it is fundamental, as you said — as you promised it was, then —
MORIN: Please, we must—
(CROSSTALK . . . possibly an inaudible derogatory comment towards a mother)
MORIN: There are more quest— . . . hello?
STATIC: —I know what I’m doing. I have a plan. I have direction.
KINETIC: No you don’t. You are a scalar quantity. All you have is a magnitude and units. For example: Big Mouth.
MORIN: That is quite enough! I would ask you both to refrain from further outbursts. We must carry on. Now the next question is for you, STAT—
QUESTION #3: Um, actually, I would like to ask this question to both parties at the same time.
MORIN: (sigh) Fine. If the world can’t follow simple rules, then why should physics? (inaudible grumbling)
QUESTION #3: Thank you. The both of you are coefficients of friction. You are both skilled in resistive force, but for different situations. We people of the world require you both to work together, complementing each other’s weak points and serving those who rely on your consistency and dedication for safety. When you bicker and banter, you reduce our faith in both of you. You damage your cause through openly hostile attacks and cripple any hope of us all working together to find a bipartisan solution.
KINETIC: . . . I’m not hearing a question.
QUESTION #3: My question is . . . what’s up with that?
KINETIC: . . .
STATIC: Um . . . entertainment?
MORIN: Well, I suppose this would be a good time for a commercial break!
(APPLAUSE. FADE OUT.)