Saturday, September 16, 2023

Still Life with Robin: The (Non) Adhesiveness Principle

 by Peggy Robin

A long time ago, when I was in school and taking basic science classes, I was made to memorize a lot of laws and principles. You know, like Newton's Laws of Motion or Boyle's Law on the inverse relationship of volume and pressure in gases. I was told that knowing these laws and many more like them would help me understand how things work in the physical world. 
But as I've grown older and supposedly wiser, I've come to realize how seldom in my long, post-school experience have I had to give a thought to any of the Laws of Physics or Chemistry that I can still recite from memory. Well, except maybe as a Jeopardy answer, shouted at an unresponsive TV screen. 
Murphy's Law, on the other hand, I see at work around me all the time. And its many corollaries
So I decided to put my vast life experience to public purpose and pass along to you a principle of physics I have developed out of my own experiences trying to fix broken things with all kinds of glues and tapes. Methodology is all real-world trial-and-error (mainly error). I'm calling it the (Non) Adhesiveness Principle). It goes like this: "The strength of a bond between two materials that one is trying to stick together is inversely proportionate to the person's need for the bond to last."
Here's a recent, real-world example: The adhesive Velcro strips that I bought from Amazon came in a box that said: "Peel and stick - holds up to 10 lbs". So I thought they'd be fine to stick a ten-ounce smoke detector to the ceiling. Guess how long the bond held? Oh, from about 6pm when I stuck it up there until about two in morning, when it fell to the floor with a clatter....and of course, set itself off. 
Simpler example: The duct tape used to patch a hole in the flexible aluminum accordion-style dryer vent tubing will stay firmly in place as long as you don't turn the dryer on. The minute the hot dryer air is blasting through the patched area, the duct tape patch will fall off.
Here's the true, classic example of the principle: When you use super glue to glue back into place the insulating rubber handle-cover that fell off the metal handle of a cooking pot, it will seemingly be on tight through any number of uses of the cooking pot; but just when you need it most -- when the pot is bubbling and almost boiling over and you need to get it over to the sink to dump the pasta into the waiting colander -- that's the time when the glued-back rubber handle-cover will come unglued. 
Corollary: Superglue works best on the two things you do NOT want stuck together -- your fingertips. Now the bond is instant and seemingly irrevocable. (Incidentally, did you know that you don't need to lose a layer of skin to get your fingertips unglued? Nail polish remover does the trick. Trust me, this works!)
The (Non) Adhesion Principle even applies to the lightest, most negligible type of stick'em -- the Post-It note. If you put a Post-It note on the front door, with a reminder that says (for example) "Remember to bring the chilled wine to the party," the note will stick to the door until just a few seconds before you are ready to head out, and then it will dis-adhere, and flutter to the floor, landing just out of sight under the front hall table, and so you will depart, leaving behind in the refrigerator all the white wine you had promised to bring to the party. 
At this point you may be wondering, "Why doesn't she use her smartphone to set reminders for important things -- and use a competent professional for repair work?" 
The answer to the first part of that question is -- Remember Murphy's Law? I'd be almost certain to screw up the setting of a reminder in my cellphone: putting AM for PM or putting it on the wrong date. I'm not a Millennial with digital proficiency! As for part two of the question: Yes, I suppose that's what I should do....and maybe I will next time. Unless by the time "next time" comes around, I've forgotten how often my home repairs fail, and I think to myself, "Oh, a little duct tape can take care of this -- no problem!"

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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