Blog post

Welcome! And an update on all things sticky


Hi everyone, and welcome to my shiny new website. A huge thanks to Studio C (particularly Celeste, Rachael and Ryan) for all their sterling work on it. I’ve collaborated with the team there on various other projects in the past, but this was the first time I was the client. The experience was very positive. I’m grateful for their deep insight, design knowledge and technical expertise. I love my new home on the internet.

There are lots of reasons I decided to invest in business branding and a new site – I might write a bit more about it another time. But the biggest motivator was the pending launch of my book, Sticky: The Secret Science of Surfaces. 

As I write this [6 November], we’re just five days away from its UK/ Europe publication date, so I thought it would be the perfect time for an update, in the form of a Q&A.

What is Sticky about?

Ultimately, Sticky is a book about surfaces and the forces that operate on and between them. It is jam-packed full of interesting science stories that cut across a wide variety of disciplines. It also features interviews with more than 40 remarkable people; all leading experts in their chosen fields. Writing it has been the most challenging – and rewarding – thing I've ever done. 

Who is it for?

Sticky is written primarily for an adult audience, though I expect older teens might also enjoy it. You don’t need to have any prior science knowledge to read my book – just a curiosity about the world around you, and an interest in exploring some surprising ideas and stories. Those scientists and engineers who have read it seem to have enjoyed it too. My sincere hope is that there’s something in Sticky for everyone ☺

What’s in it?

A huge, varied, and perhaps unexpected collection of topics! Here’s a sneak-peek at each chapter: 

0. Introduction: A guide to what’s in the book, and what’s not. A glance ahead, a step back in time, plus a bit of self-indulgent musing.

1. To Stick Or Not To Stick: Paints and adhesives throughout history, and a look at how some famous 'sticky' products work. This chapter includes self-cleaning and non-stick surfaces too, both natural and artificial.

2. A Gecko’s Grip: Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about how geckos climb, including a lot of failed experiments and many successful ones. Plus, come face-to-face with some real-world technologies that have been inspired by these lizards.

3. Gone Swimming: Hydrodynamics – the physics of moving through water, and our evolving ability to measure and understand the processes involved. Swimsuit-science-debunking, sharks, and boats that don’t touch the water.

4. Flying High: Aerodynamics – the physics of flight. We start with the slower speeds of ball sports, and accelerate to sound-barrier-smashing aircraft.

5. Hit The Road: A visit to an F1 team factory, where we learn about how race cars push tyres and brakes to their limits.

6. These Shaky Isles: A primer on earthquakes, in all their destructive, unpredictable glory. The role of friction in geological processes, and a visit to a cool research facility here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

7. Break The Ice: Unpick the science of ice, and find complex answers to seemingly basic questions. A scientific look at the Winter Olympics, and the controversy at the heart of a Scottish sport. Glaciers, anti-icing, and freezing temperatures.

8. Human Touch: My take on the human sense of touch, focused on what happens when our hands meet various surfaces. Fingerprinting, touch receptors and the frictional forces that helps us grip. We’ll also meet some cool tactile technologies.

9. Close Contact: What is contact, really? Where does friction come from, and what happens to it at the nanoscale? Will we ever be able to defeat (or at least, defy) it? Despite decades of research, many of these questions have yet to be answered, so expect a chapter full of mysteries.

If you’re REALLY keen, you can find a list of every single reference in the book here (under References)

For more information on the people I interviewed for Sticky, have a look at this post on LinkedIn.

When / where can I buy it? What formats are available?

Like my first book (Science and the City), Sticky is being published worldwide by Bloomsbury.

This means that it will be widely available after its publication date(s) - you should be able to find it wherever you usually buy your physical books, no matter where you are on the planet.

However, the ongoing impact of COVID is very much still being felt by the publishing industry. As a result, some of the planned publication dates for the physical edition have been pushed out a little. And to be totally frank, I’m a bit confused about its release date in certain regions. The list below is all I can confirm for now – I’ll update this as and when I get more info.

Digital editions have been unaffected by this chaos, so please look for Sticky in Kobo, Kindle and all other e-book stores.

In exciting (and rather unexpected) news, there’s also an audiobook edition of Sticky…and I’m the one narrating it! So I hope you like your science with an Irish accent ☺ The process involved spending three long days speaking into a microphone in a beautiful recording studio in Wellington. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this, and I was rather daunted by the prospect. All I can say is that I tried my best – I’ll leave you to judge whether I make a good narrator or not! As far as I know, the audiobook is only available on Audible.

Sticky is already available for pre-order, in all formats, everywhere.


Europe and UK: 11 November 2021 (hardback, e-book, and audiobook)

North America:  11 November 2021 (audiobook) 1 February 2022 (hardback, e-book)

Australia and New Zealand: 11 November 2021 (e-book), 1 March 2022 (hardback and audiobook)

Sticky is available on all of the regional Amazon sites (of course), but if you’re looking for a physical copy, and prefer to avoid the platform, and EthicalBookSearch are both excellent alternatives.

I’ve had a few very kind people ask me where’s best to buy the book, in terms of maximising the % that makes its way back to me. I really appreciate the thought, but the amount I get paid stays the same whether you buy it in your local bookshop or online (or whether it’s full price or reduced). In general, I’d always encourage people to shop local if they can – bookshops have had a very tough couple of years, so sending your money to them has a demonstrable impact. But you do you. 

At the moment, Sticky only being published in English, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we might get some ‘foreign-language’ editions later down the line.

Can I buy an autographed copy?

For those of you here in NZ, I’m planning to partner up with a local bookshop to provided signed copies of Sticky. It’ll work something like this: you’ll order from their online store, tick the ‘signed copy’ box (and provide any specific wording you want me to include), I’ll sign it for you, and then the shop will send it your way.

For those not in NZ, I’m still working out the logistics. It’s a whole trickier than it was for SATC, because I won’t be able to get to Europe or the US for quite some time (at least not until NZ sorts out its border restrictions). Most likely I’ll set up some sort of Google form where you fill in your details. I’ll then sign a special bookplate sticker, and send it to you to stick into your book. Not quite the same, I know, but it’s the best I can do.

What can I do to help? 

  • If you can afford to buy a copy of Sticky, please do! It would also be wonderful if you’d consider pre-ordering it. Pre-orders are a big deal for authors for lots of reasons. For one, they help drive interest (and sales) both in person and via online shopping algorithms (Helen Cullen breaks it all down in this piece in the Irish Times). Pre-orders are open with most online retailers, so just choose the one you like best and go from there ☺ Your local bookshop will also be able to pre-order the book in for you. Drop in and ask them about it. The more people who do that, the more likely they are to stock extra copies. 
  • If buying is not an option, why not borrow it from your local library? And if they don’t have copy in stock, please encourage them to get their hands on one! I spent a lot of my childhood curled up beside library bookshelves, so it is really important to me that Sticky is available to book-borrowers as well as book-buyers. Whatever you do, please don’t download an illegal PDF of it from the internet. This book took me four years to write – seeing it pirated really sucks.
  • If you read and enjoy Sticky, please consider writing a quick review of it. Amazon or Goodreads are the big two, really. And just to say, you can leave a book review on Amazon even if you didn’t buy the book on the platform. Reviews help to increase the book’s visibility on online stores, which very often drives sales. Mentions / shares on social media are also amazing, as are personal recommendations to your family, friends, colleagues, etc!
  • Come to my events! Unless you’re in NZ, most of these will be online. But the good thing about virtual events is that you can join in from everywhere ☺ I am EXTREMELY excited to be speaking at the Royal Institution on 11 November – it’s the stuff of childhood dreams, honestly. Would you like to join me? You’ll need to register in advance, but it's a free / pay-what-you-can event, with all proceeds going to the RI. I think you’ll be sent a link to the recording afterwards too. 
  • And finally, if you’re someone who regularly organises for interesting speakers to visit your organisation, why not get in touch and get me booked in? I have some availability throughout 2022 for both in-person and online talks.

Ok, I think I’ve gone on for MORE than long enough. Thanks so much for your support.

L x