Q:

How can a person move on a frictionless surface?

A:

Quick Answer

Without friction, the best way to move would be with rocket propulsion. If there are solid objects on this frictionless surface, it would also be possible to move by pushing off of them.

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Full Answer

Rocket propulsion and pushing off of objects are both possible because of the physical principles described by Newton's Third Law of Motion: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. For example, using a fire extinguisher for rocket propulsion would send the foam from the extinguisher flying in one direction and the user would be pushed in the opposite direction. On a completely frictionless surface, something as simple as a person blowing air from his mouth would allow for movement. By pushing the air one way, a person or an object is sent in the opposite direction.

The same sort of thing would happen when pushing against an object in the environment. An example of this can be seen in the real world; ice is a very low-friction surface, so if a stationary ice skater pushes another stationary ice skater, they both move in opposite directions.

Walking does not work on a frictionless surface because taking a step requires gripping the ground through friction. The foot usually stays in place while the rest of the body moves forward. On a frictionless surface, a person trying to walk would essentially be doing the moonwalk in place.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What are some examples of Newton's Third Law?

    A:

    Some examples of Newton's Third Law are a person pushing against a wall, fish swimming in water, birds flying in the air and the automobile´s propulsion. Newton's Third Law explains the interaction between objects and states that for every action there will be an equal and opposite reaction. For example, a person pushing on a wall is exerting a forward force on it, but the wall is also exerting an equal an opposite force, or pushing back with the same force.

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  • Q:

    What causes friction?

    A:

    The primary causes of friction are surface roughness, the plowing effect and molecular adhesion. Surface roughness is when serious abrasion occurs due to the roughness of the materials in contact. The plowing effect involves deformations of the objects that cause resistance to movement when the materials are relatively soft.

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  • Q:

    Why is rolling friction much less forceful than sliding friction?

    A:

    When an object slides across the ground, it has much more surface area in direct contact with the ground, which means that the amount of friction is significantly higher. When an object rolls along the ground, only a minuscule point on the object contacts the ground at any point in time, making the stopping force much weaker.

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    How can someone calculate the stopping distance of their car?

    A:

    The stopping, or braking, distance of a car is twice the original speed divided by the value of twice acceleration due to gravity, multiplied by the sum of the surface grade and the friction between the tires and the road. Braking distance is dependent upon speed and the roadway, so it varies in different situations.

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