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Olympic Friction: Why ice is slippery… and other stories/Virtual Author Event with Laurie Winkless

Tuesday February 22 at 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Every four years, the whole world becomes obsessed with ice and snow, as the Winter Olympics take over our TV channels. But did you know that every sport at the Olympics relies on its own unique recipe for ice? Or that the behaviour of the surface that a winter sport happens on can be the difference between a record-breaking performance, and an average one?

The interactions between skilled athletes and the ice can unveil some surprising science about what makes this material so slippery. They can even help us better understand the impact of rising temperatures on the planet’s glaciers. Join physicist and author Laurie Winkless as she takes you on a tour of the Winter Olympics, where friction is the star.

Laurie Winkless is an Irish physicist-turned-science-writer, currently based in New Zealand. After her post-grad, she joined the UK’s National Physical Laboratory as a research scientist, where she specialised in functional materials. She is an experienced science communicator, who loves talking about science in all forms of media. Since leaving the lab, Laurie has worked with scientific organisations, engineering companies, universities, and astronauts, amongst others. Her writing has featured in outlets including ForbesWiredEsquire, and The Economist, and her first book, Science and the City, was published by Bloomsbury Sigma in 2016. This was followed by STICKY, her exploration of friction and surface science, in 2021. Learn more about her here

Please register. Zoom links will be sent out before the event. We’re giving away two copies of Sticky during this event! 

About Sticky:

You are surrounded by stickiness. With every step you take, air molecules cling to you and slow you down; the effect is harder to ignore in water. When you hit the road, whether powered by pedal or engine, you rely on grip to keep you safe. The Post-it note and glue in your desk drawer. The non-stick pan on your stove. The fingerprints linked to your identity. The rumbling of the Earth deep beneath your feet, and the ice that transforms waterways each winter. All of these things are controlled by tiny forces that operate on and between surfaces, with friction playing the leading role.

In Sticky, Laurie Winkless explores some of the ways that friction shapes both the manufactured and natural worlds, and describes how our understanding of surface science has given us an ability to manipulate stickiness, down to the level of a single atom. But this apparent success doesn’t tell the whole story. Each time humanity has pushed the boundaries of science and engineering, we’ve discovered that friction still has a few surprises up its sleeve.

So do we really understand this force? Can we say with certainty that we know how a gecko climbs, what’s behind our sense of touch, or why golf balls, boats and aircraft move as they do? Join Laurie as she seeks out the answers from experts scattered across the globe, uncovering a stack of scientific mysteries along the way.


Tuesday February 22
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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AFPL Adult Programs
860-673-9712 ext 4
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