Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Friction.

Have you brushed your teeth today? Or gotten a shot recently? As tribologist Jennifer Vail explains, these mundane activities are among the many in our daily lives that are made possible by friction.

About Jennifer Vail

Jennifer Vail is a tribologist, meaning she specializes in the study of friction, combining mechanical engineering and materials science to understand how surfaces interact in relative motion.

She's worked on a wide variety of projects, from aerospace materials to syringes to dog food. She has also studied how friction can be used to reduce energy consumption and produce longer-lasting materials.

Previously, Vail worked at DuPont as a research scientist. She now works for TA Instruments and creates science videos for Khan Academy.

She earned her bachelor's and her doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Florida.

This segment of the TED Radio Hour was produced by Fiona Geiran and edited by Sanaz Meshkinpour and Rachel Faulkner. You can follow us on Twitter @TEDRadioHour and email us at

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