Is friction a fundamental phenomenon?

Про трение как “сопутствующее явление” (“Friction as an epiphenomenon”) is a bit “philosophical” paper in Russian about friction.

For most conventional textbooks on mechanics,  Coulomb’s dry friction is an external phenomenon, which is introduced in an  ad hoc manner in addition to the constitutive laws of  mechanics. Furthermore, the very compatibility of the Coulomb friction laws with the laws of mechanics is questionable due to the existence of the so-called frictional paradoxes (the Painlevé paradoxes) or logical contradictions in the mechanical problems with friction. The Coulomb-Amontons law of friction is not considered a fundamental law of nature, but an approximate empirical rule, whereas friction is perceived as a collective name for various unrelated effects of different nature and mechanisms — such as adhesion, fracture, and deformation — lacking any internal unity or universality.

Despite this artificial character of friction laws in mechanics, Coulomb’s friction is a fundamental and universal phenomenon that is observed for all classes of materials and for loads ranging from nanonewtons in nanotribology to trillions of tons in seismology. There is a contradiction between the generality and universality of friction and the artificial manner of how the friction laws are postulated in mechanics and physics. Is it by chance that all these diverse conditions and mechanisms lead to the same (or at least similar) laws of friction? Hopefully, if a thermodynamic approach is used consistently, the laws of friction and wear can be introduced in a much more consistent way.

Historically, friction could be viewed as a fundamental force having the same status as the inertia force (nothing would move without inertia, nothing would stop without friction). The problem of inertia force was one of the central issues of physics throughout the middle ages, until it was finally resolved by Galileo, leading to the foundation of modern mechanics by Newton in the late 17th century. In contrast, friction force was not usually seen as a fundamental force of nature and became somewhat marginal in modern mechanics.

The Galilean approach towards physics is in the deconstruction of complex phenomena (considering those parts which can be brought to a scientific lab and studying them in the ideal conditions) and finding their underling fundamental mechanisms, thus building physics in a deductive (or “nomothetic”) manner. Those phenomena which do not fit the nomothetic scheme are considered “idiographic”. However, it has been suggested (in particular, by a contemporary Russian thinker Dr. Sergey Chebanov) that the nomothetic-idiographic dichotomy is inappropriate for many situations and phenomena discovered by the 20th century science. Friction, in my view, represents an interesting example of a single emergent phenomenon which has several sources rather than a single source of origin thus combining the nomothetic and idiographic approaches in science.

This is more or less what that my Russian popular paper is about.