WATCH: Geckos stick to walls thanks to quantum mechanics

Geckos are crafty creatures, not only can they regrow their tails, they can also run straight up walls and glass using a quantum mechanical force known as the van der Waals force.

We all know that positive and negatively charged particles attract each other, but as the latest episode of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) eLearning's The Quantum Around You explains, this van der Waals force is the attraction between two neutrally charged molecules that can't be explained by regular positive and negative charges. And it's a result of quantum mechanical attraction operating between the tiny hair-like structures on a gecko's foot and a surface.

As Associate Professor Andrea Morello from the UNSW School of Engineering explains, electrons don't orbit nuclei in the way we imagine - it's more a wave of probability that fluctuates over time. This causes the charge at different parts of certain atoms to change, and makes them act more like dipoles - particles of opposite charges held at a distance from each other, which "click" together along a certain axis. This force is so strong that geckos have even been known to be able to hang by a foot to a wall.

Watch the episode above to find out more about how geckos use this powerful quantum mechanical force to defy gravity, and the science behind it (don't worry, Andrea explains it much better than we do).

Each Tuesday, Associate Professor Andrea Morello releases a new episode explaining some of the most fascinating aspects of quantum mechanics, and how they impact our lives - we love scientists that want to help provide free education to the world.

Source: UNSW eLearning. Thumbnail image: Ricky Romero/Flickr