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News Link • Science, Medicine and Technology

Science Of Theft: Freeze A Bike Lock With Canned Air, Then Smash It With A Hammer

• By Theodore Gray

Strong, hard, tough. These sound like different ways of saying the same thing, perhaps describing a really good suitcase. But when applied to the physical properties of materials, each of these words has a very specific technical meaning that distinguishes it from the others. And those definitions explain why it’s so difficult to make a bicycle lock that can foil thieves.

Imagine a chain made of diamond. It would be impossible to cut with any hacksaw, but it could easily be defeated with a brick. Diamond is hard, but also brittle, much like glass. What diamond lacks is toughness: the ability to absorb energy without failing.

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