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Why Is Water Slippery?

Kids ask some pretty hard questions, and sometimes the answers are extremely fascinating, which is why the FiveThirtyEight blog, best known for political polling and sports prognostication, has started this gem of a series called Science Questions from a Toddler. Since the Solar One community is full of both teachers and parents (and teachers who are parents!), we thought this might be of interest for all sorts of reasons.

This week’s topic: Why is water so slippery?

The answer has to do a lot with just how peculiar water molecules actually are.

First of all, consider friction. At the microscopic level, a smooth-feeling surface is more like the topography of a mountain range; it’s more full of nooks and crannies than an English muffin. When those crags rub together, they drag across each other and slow things down. But water, with its teeny tiny molecules, can fill in those crags the same way spackle can smooth out a rough wall, and there you have it: Hydroplaning, trying to hold onto something with sweaty palms, the reason a glass can slip out of your hands and smash in the sink while you’re washing it- all these phenomena are caused by just one miraculous property of water.

You can read the full post on FiveThirtEight.com here. Does your toddler have a science question you can’t answer? You can also submit questions for consideration using this handy Google form. Enjoy!