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Why the thinnest sticky hairs rule

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3:46pm, June 20, 2004

Many creatures can walk on walls and ceilings thanks to slender hairs on their feet. Intermolecular attractions between a surface and the tips of those plentiful hairs, or setules, on geckos, spiders, and other creatures add up to a strong adhesive force (SN: 6/7/03, p. 356: Caught on Tape: Gecko-inspired adhesive is superstrong).

Now, a pair of theorists in Germany has calculated an optimal shape for the tips of those hairs. Working with an idealized cylindrical model of a setule, Huajian Gao and Haimin Yao of the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research in Stuttgart, Germany, determined that the tip of such a hair should modestly dimple inward to achieve the greatest adh

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