A Super-Friction Hamster
Co-written with Eric "The" Baird '94
Someone at Invisionism (the Company for Inventionism) suggested we should compliment our Household Pet Friction Spray range with a Super Friction Spray. Wouldn't it be fun, we thought. Something that would let you climb vertical walls and start fires by rubbing your hands together?
It was postulated that a super-friction coating probably wouldn't have to "stick" to the surface that you spray it into, but form lots of smooth molecular "needles" pointing straight away from the basal adhesive layer at 90 degrees, very like "stickle bricks". That way, you'd be able to detach yourself from an Superfriction surface by moving away at exactly 90 degrees. It would only be when you were moving the surfaces parallel to each other that would be impossible. So for instance, if Spiderman were sprayed with super-friction, he could climb a sheer wall, but he'd fall off ceilings unless he set up some sort of sideways resistance (if you slapped the palm of your SF-coated glove against the ceiling, then tried to spread or close your fingers, this might be enough to hold you in place. You'd need strong hands though)..
On this presumption, a mixture of glue and "buckytubes" with a larger glue-seeking molecule at one end, sprayed onto an electrically charged object would probably make a pretty good SF coating (the rest of the buckytube ought not to bond with the adhesive).
C60 (aka Buckminsterfullerine) is the third regular allotrope of Carbon that wasn't supposed to exist until someone thought of it a couple of years ago. All the normal textbooks still say that carbon only forms diamond, graphite and soot, but New Scientist, Nature, etc. have published lots of recent stuff on C60. The configuration of carbon atoms actually matches the arrangement of the patches found on footballs, which makes the fact that nobody thought of it a weeny bit embarrassing. People originally started trying to make it with particle accelerators, then they found that you could just use a graphite-electrode arc, and then it eventually turned out that the stuff turns up in simple candle soot (you dissolve it out with benzene, etc). The same configuration turned up on some of Buckminster-Fuller's geodesic domes, hence the annoyingly-long name.
Buckyballs turned out to be the perfect lubricant for the "anti-friction" spray, because they are like identically-sized slippery molecular ball bearings. They tended to break down in the presence of oxygen, so they had a limited lifetime after the stuff left the aerosol (safety measure) - though they could be made more stable by suspending them in something oily.
Buckytubes are extended buckyballs - a hollow tube of carbon atoms capped with half a buckyball at each end, forming a highly-conductive rigid molecular rod of just about any length. When used as the basis for a Super-Friction Spray, if you charged the test object while the glue set, the charge made the buckytubes repel each other, and stand on end, thus creating the sticklebrick effect. An alternative method was toyed with, where you could produce a much cruder version of the same effect by connecting the hamster to a UHT voltage, then laquering it while it's hair was standing on end. It wasn't nearly as "rough", but you were just about able to get it to stick to a plaster wall if you threw it hard enough.
With surprising speed, our lab workers had prototype 1 manufactured and ready for initial testing.
Sraying a hamster with SF wasn't a very nice thing to do unless you shaved it first, we quickly learnt. It's hair would get horribly tangled up and knotted when it walked (painful, believe me), and we'd usually have to rescue the thing with a pair of scissors. Mind you, a shaved SF-coated hamster turned out to have enough power-to-weight in its feet to run up and down walls, which was quite fun. A hamster whose feet were sprayed with SF, and whose fur was sprayed with the Anti-friction was pretty cat-proof!
We soon decided that we'd have to make sure the coating was nice and warm, though. Spiderman wouldn't be able to wear an SF-coated costume under his clothes, or he wouldn't be able to take them off.