A gecko setae.
A gecko setae.

Sticky Science: The Force Be With You with Laurie Winkless

Peter Heeling, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
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About This Episode

What are Van der Waals forces? On this episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson and co-hosts Chuck Nice and Gary O’Reilly explore the fascinating world of surfaces, biomimicry, and Formula 1 with physicist and author of Sticky: The Science of Surfaces, Laurie Winkless. 

What’s up with gecko feet? We break down how geckos defy gravity and the hierarchical structure of their lamellae that makes them so sticky. How close do gecko’s feet get to the surface they’re on? We explain Van der Waals interactions and the groundbreaking applications of gecko biomimicry for us humans. 

What does “laying down rubber” mean? Learn about the forces at play on Formula 1 tires. What do they have in common with gecko feet? Discover tribology and the principles of friction. How do rubber tires work? Is there a way to make them faster? How does a tire make contact with the road? We discuss rain tires and new materials like carbon carbon. 

We also explore the physics of other special surfaces. Can we make a boat that never gets wet? Find out about the Salvinia fern and how its helping scientists create the ultimate low friction coating. How do golf balls reduce friction in the air? Is the air also sticky? You’ll also learn about how Sharks reduce drag using their dermal denticles. All that, plus, how can Chuck become spiderman? 

Thanks to our Patrons Artist formerly known as James Smith, Joseph Strasser, Salvatore Scuiri, Kyle Dagg, Luke Ehlers, Paul Bowe, Jason R.Y. Rankin, Ann Young, Jasam Mohammed, and Jan Bojarp for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

In This Episode

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