The Physics of Pruny Fingers

Wired investigates:

Scientists and frequent bathers know that skin can absorb a tremendous amount of water, and still be a strong barrier between our bodies and the harsh outside world.

“Your skin wrinkles, yet it maintains its structure,” said mathematician Myfanwy Evans of the Australian National University, lead author of the new study. “It doesn’t just fall apart and dissolve into the water.”

The skin’s resilient stretchiness comes from an intricate network of fibrous proteins called keratin, which make up the outermost layer of the skin, as well as hair and nails. Scientists knew that skin’s keratin networks were important, but the arrangement of fibers was uncertain.

Now, Evans and Australian National University colleague Stephen Hyde may have found a solution. They describe their stringy skin model in the March 8 Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

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