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"My feeling is that the chance of our surviving into the twenty-first century as working civilization is less than fifty percent but greater than zero."
- Isaac Asimov

Telelubricator  
  Makes any surface or substance perfectly frictionless.  

Professor Methuen has gone slightly mad and uses his considerable scientific and engineering gifts to pull pranks on his colleagues. When they try to stop him at his house, something unusual happens.

...something happened to the front steps under him. They became slicker than the smoothest ice...

Every time he applied a horizontal component of force to a hand or knee, the hand or knee simply slid backward.

So, how does it work?

"...My telelubricator here neutralizes the interatomic bonds the surface of any solid on which the beam falls. So the surface, to the depth of a few molecules, is put in the condition of a supercooled liquid as long as the beam is focused on it. Since the liquid form of any compound will wet the solid form, you have perfect lubrication."
From The Exhalted, by L. Sprague de Camp.
Published by Astounding Science-Fiction in 1940
Additional resources -

Clifford Simak was also fascinated by the idea of a frictionless surface; see the frictionless surface from his 1963 story Way Station.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Exhalted
  More Ideas and Technology by L. Sprague de Camp
  Tech news articles related to The Exhalted
  Tech news articles related to works by L. Sprague de Camp

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