Slip, sliding away…Why is ice slippery?

Yesterday was one miserable day with ice adhering to everything making walking and traveling treacherous. So why is ice slippery? A century and a half of scientific inquiry has yet to solve this one. It’s clear that a thin layer of liquid water on top of solid ice causes the slipperiness. But there’s consensus as to why ice, unlike most other solids has such a layer.

Some studies suggest that friction from a moving shoe, skate or tire causes the heat necessary to melt the ice beneath it. But what if the shoe isn’t moving at all? A second theory proposes that ice inherently has a fluid layer caused by the motion of surface molecules that have nothing above to bind to and so move around in search of stability. The slippery culprit may be a combination of these two theories.

Enough for our science class. With all the technological breakthroughs in fighting cancer, landing on the the moon and Mars, communication technology, understanding the molecular composition to fight diseases and wars, we cannot figure out why ice is slippery? Maybe it’s best. Keep nature simple.

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