Physics and the single Curling Rock

I was talking to someone today, and as usual, I was talking about Curling.

Quick aside: it's late November, and it was cold for Southern California, barely into the 60's -- call it somewhere around 16 or 17 degrees for our metric friends. 

As usual, I was explaining that I don't like cold, and, well, I'm a propellerhead -- I didn't play sports in high school, or after.

She commented "but it makes sense because there is a lot of Physics involved in the game."

That's true, but whenever something like this comes up, I remember my High School Chemistry teacher, who said "When I make bread I have to measure, but my wife just dumps."

It was several years later when I figured out what he meant.

When the stone is released, it has a certain amount of inertia.  42 pounds of granite wants to go fairly straight. 

You can describe mathematically the area of the running surface on the top of the pebble.

If the ice is truly level, true and flat, gravity won't play a big role, but if you play on what is normally hockey ice, it won't be level, or true.  It's kinda flat.

The turn on the stone affects the friction on opposite sides as the stone proceeds, and that makes it curl.

Trouble is, in all but the most exacting laboratory conditions, you can't measure any of those factors well enough to say "if released at precisely this angle, at this precise speed, with this turn the stone will end up in this precise spot."

That's all physics, and it's all interesting, in an academic sort of way.

... and it's all about the "I have to measure" part of what Mr. Kunsz said.

When it comes time to actually Curl, in a match, you can't play using math and physics.  You have to try your best to deliver the right weight, and a consistent line, and try to hit the broom every time -- by feel.

The Skip gets to watch each rock, and study what happens -- where the zamboni tracks or flaws left over from Hockey mess things up, where the ice is a little frosty, and how the ice gets faster during the game.

That isn't science, that's an art. 

My Chemistry teacher was describing how he practiced the science of breadmaking, while his wife practiced the art.  She just knew how much, without measuring.

You have to step into the hack, look to your Skip for guidance and "just dump."  Good Curling is an art.

Posted November 27, 2010, Updated November 28, 2010