In this experiment we are diving into learning about friction – the resistance to motion between two objects. Friction is all around us in our everyday life – it’s the reason we can walk, ride bikes, hold things – the list goes on!

We’re exploring how it works by lifting a bottle of rice with just a dowel and making two books difficult to pull apart. It might seem like magic, but it all boils down to friction!

Want to duplicate these experiments at home or in your classroom? Watch the video for an overview, gather the materials listed at the right, and follow the instructions below!

Required Materials

  • plastic bottle
  • rice
  • dowel
  • 2 books

Step-By-Step Instructions

Step 1

Fill the bottle with rice, leaving a little bit of space at the top.

Step 2

Push the dowel stick into the bottle of rice. Note how easily the dowel can be removed from the bottle.

Step 3

Slam the bottle of rice onto the table a few times so that the grains of rice are compressed and forced to stick together.

Step 4

Put the dowel in the bottle again, and see if you can lift it with just the dowel! Repeat steps 3 and 4 until it works. When you’re successful, you have created enough friction between the grains of rice that the dowel can’t slide through!

Step 5

Onto experiment number two! Take two books and place one inside the other. How easy is it to pull the two books apart?

Step 6

Do this again, but this time interweave the pages so that almost every other page in the two books is overlapping. Try to pull the books apart (don’t pull on an angle!). Note how easy or hard it is to do. By layering the pages in the middle of the books, you’re increasing the force and friction between them, making it difficult to separate them when you pull from the edges. In the video, you’ll see why this changes when you move your hands to the middle!