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Carpet Skiing



The other day, after gym class, a few of my friends (you know who you are... I'm just protecting your privacy) stopped by the locker of one of said friends. His locker is known for the large amounts of food that is kept in there. After emptying out a Capri-Sun* box and a box of Little Bites Muffins* someone had the brilliant idea to put one of the boxes on their feet. He tried skating around on one foot without much success. After meandering along the halls, I thought someone should try wearing both. After a bit of experimentation with that we decided to start pulling each other around. The person wearing the boxes held onto another person who ran along, pulling them behind them. While nervously watching the security guard I was sure was going to approach us to tell us to stop I realized, "Hey! This would make a great physics blog post!" So, let us discuss the physics behind why this extremely fun activity (that, yes, I eventually did try) works!!

If you tried to grab on to someone's back and have them pull you with your feet flat on the ground, you would most likely end up not getting very far. This is because the soles of your shoes are made to have a large amount of traction (a large coefficient of kinetic friction) so while you walk you don't slip all over the place. The boxes are the magic catalyst. When you put the boxes on your feet, the coefficient of kinetic friction greatly reduced, so while you are being pulled you can move across the top of the carpeted hallway without getting "stuck". It's also easier to start pulling someone because the coefficient of static friction is smaller that if you were wearing normal shoes. This means it is easier to get someone moving from rest. 

I highly suggest trying this with your friends sometime... but please be careful. Sometimes physics can get a little dangerous 



*DISCLAIMER: I was not sponsored by either of these companies, nor were any of my friends. I just thought it added to the blog :)


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How can you be sure that your friends were not being sponsored by either company and that you were not a victim of a vicious guerrilla marketing campaign?

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Very interesting (and sounds like a lot of fun too!). I'd think about what shoe designers are really going for though, do you think your shoes need a high kinetic or static coefficient of friction? :jig:

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