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The science of sticky tape

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David Gregory | 12:59 UK time, Monday, 28 January 2013

Today my colleagues at Radio Shropshire are going to attempt to beat the world record for "shortest time to duct tape a person to a wall". Apparently this is a real thing and you can see some videos here.

You'll notice that it doesn't take much tape to actually stick someone to a wall so that they are suspended off the ground for at least a minute. That's because this broad silver and white tape is in fact incredibly strong.

The always excellent Mythbusters in America have done several tv specials looking at all the fun you can have with gaffer tape. They've made everything from shoes and a canoe to a bridge that successful crossed a 100 foot gap.

But all this is nothing compared to the Alaskan pilot who's light aircraft was mauled by a bear and who repaired and flew his plane using duct tape. Amazing pictures can be found here.

So given all that it is perhaps no surprise it's not going to be hard to stick BBC staff to the odd wall.

Of course humble sellotape still beats duct tape at some things. If you peel a roll of sticky tape quickly in a darkened room you will see small flashes of light. You'll see the same effect opening self-sealing envelopes or crushing extra-strong mints with pliers.

This is triboluminescence. An effect we don't fully understand and it's more than a pretty light show. If you unroll sticky tape fast enough you could in theory generate x-rays powerful enough to take an image of your finger.

Don't worry, ordinary use poses no risk. But all this is a reminded just how amazing these office and workshop standbys can be.

Which lead to my favourite joke of all time. Why is duct tape like the Force in Star Wars? Because it has a light side and a dark side and it binds the universe together.


  • Comment number 1.

    the stickiness of tape will be effected by climate change: atmospheric moisture. As with all scientifical climate change concerns the answer is as simple as ever -- merely change the distance between the planet and the giant heat ball when its own heat output cycle becomes undesirable


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