Pick Up Points

A yellow flat board, with four black cones pointing upwards.
A red and purple exhibit table, with a blue, white and purple information panel on top, sits in front of a green and a blue wall. On the table is a yellow flat board, with four black cones pointing upwards.

The force of friction allows items to be held and moved.

How it works

Try to lift three cones which are the same mass, but are shaped differently and are difficult to pick up because friction doesn't allow adequate grip.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • Which cone shape is easiest to pick up?
  • Are there any cone shapes you simply cannot pick up?
  • Why?


The cones all weigh the same, but some cones are more pointed than others.

When you try to lift a cone, gravity works against you, pulling downwards.

Cones with a sharper point are easier to grip and lift, because the friction between your fingers and the cone acts more directly upwards against the downward pull of gravity.

Finding the science in your world

Rubber or texturised plastic is often used on handles, to create more friction and allow things to be picked up or manipulated more easily.