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FearOfPhysics.com: Friction

What is Friction?

Friction is the "evil" of all motion. No matter which direction something moves in, friction pulls it the other way. Move something left, friction pulls right. Move something up, friction pulls down. It appears as if nature has given us friction to stop us from moving anything.

Friction is actually a force that appears whenever two things rub against each other. Although two objects might look smooth, microscopically, they're very rough and jagged, as this picture shows:

As they slide against each other, their contact is anything BUT smooth. They both kind of grind and drag against each other. This is where friction comes from.

But friction is not all bad. In fact, it has a lot to do with life as we know it here on Earth. Without it, we wouldn't be able to walk, sit in a chair, climb stairs, or use a mouse to surf the web. Everything would just keep slipping and falling all over the place.

Take a quiz about friction | Watch a video about friction

Click here to do an experiment with friction, as it applies to stopping a car on the road.