The pyramids of ancient Egypt, barstools, gearsets in car transmissions, and the earthquake-proof San Francisco International Airport all have one unlikely thing in common: bearings. While relatively simple to understand, the difference that using a bearing makes can be massive. And the reason is simple: according to basic physics, things that roll meet less frictional resistance than things that slide. Aptly named, bearings “bear” the load by using smooth metal for the balls or rollers, and the inner and outer surfaces they roll against to minimize the contact area and allow for less friction and smoother movement.


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