Saturday, August 27, 2005

Da Vinci right, again

One of the things that interests me in science is when a theory from hundreds of years ago is finally proven - scientists have proven a theory of the great Leonardo Da Vinci, scientist and artist.

The Ames Laboratory of the US Department of Energy report says, Leonardo Da Vinci continues to inspire even 500 years after his remarkable life. His theories on friction are helping a group of scientists unlock the mystery of friction at the molecular level.

The press statement says, "In a nutshell, Da Vinci proposed that if two contacting surfaces are geometrically similar, they will have a much higher coefficient of friction than two geometrically dissimilar surfaces, due to the fact that the similar surfaces have a tendency to interlock. To test this theory at the molecular level, the research team looked at a quasicrystalline material that exhibits both periodic and aperiodic configurations in its crystal structure. What they found, and reported in the journal Science, was that friction along the periodic surface was about eight times greater than the friction along the aperiodic axis.

Okay, so it's cool to see the old guys were right most of the time, but why is understanding friction so important... well there are tons of reasons if you google "friction" and "molecular."

But here is one interesting explanation from meteorologist Jeff Haby from Weather "Friction is an extremely important force to meteorology. Not only does friction decrease the wind speed, it also changes the direction of the wind. Two types of friction occur in the atmosphere. One is molecular friction (friction between individual air molecules, called viscosity) and friction between two surfaces (i.e. friction between air and land). Since air molecules are free to move about, friction by viscosity is much less significant than friction between two surfaces."

There you go - so much good science, so little time to learn more about it!

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