Do rugs really move around by themselves?

This is a science experiment that my four year old son has wanted to do for ages. We have a rug in the bedroom that seems to walk across the floor while we are not looking.  We know it does this, and I am fairly sure I know how (it’s to do with the pressure of feet on the rug crushing the pile of the carpet beneath, which then gradually straightens up again, moving the rug very slightly.  The direction of movement will be consistent because it’s due to the the direction of the pile of the carpet, rather than the direction people were walking over it.

So, here’s the experiment, which my son devised pretty much all by himself:

I have two 5kg weights that I use very occasionally in an attempt to be strong and healthy.  We have put them at one end of the rug to weight it down, and we’ve used stickers on the carpet to mark the rug’s starting position.  We plan to mark the new position of the carpet first thing in the morning every day, to see whether the rug still walks in a straight line, or whether the weights stop one end from moving so that it starts to move in a circle, with the weighted end as a fixed point.

We only started today, but early results are suggesting that circular motion is likely.  My science-mad son is very excited about this, and I’m really proud of him for not only enjoying the wonder of small things, nor even just because he longs to understand them, but because the understanding only increases his sense of wonder.

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