Sunday, February 02, 2014

Countdown to Olympic Curling

Are you participating in The Ravellenic Winter Games 2014? I will be competing in the finishing as many WIPs (works in progress) as possible event.

The event I am most looking forward to is curling, which starts on February 10.

 I agree with Bleacher Report.
Curling is the next curling. There is no other winter Olympic sport with as much personality and flair that people can play as easily on a recreational level around the world.
The slowness of curling allows me to .see. the competition in a way that I can't with the faster sports (without slo-mo and instant replay).  I'm also interested in the rapid changes in women's curling.  It used to be mainly about finesse and placement of stones.  But, now, women are aggressively knocking out competitors' stones as the men have traditionally done.

In 2010, I caught a cold during our ski trip and spent an entire day in the hotel room immersed in Olympic curling and watching the nail-biter finals. I was so excited, I wrote about my newfound love of curling. Since then, I became such a groupie.   I stalked a guy at Lair just because he was wearing a curling team t-shirt.

Who knew that Silicon Valley and the East Bay has a curling league? Would it be obsessive to move back to NorCal so I can join their league? Did you know that the Japanese curling team hails from Aomori and Sapporo, where I've been meaning to take Iris to meet her cousins? I wonder if I could sneak off from family visits to the curling center?

Read the fascinating story of how Ayumi Ogasawara (nee Onodera) and Yumie Funayama (nee Hayashi) retired from international curling to marry and raise children, but came out of retirement to rescue Japan's chances of qualifying for Sochi.  Size and strength counts, so their victory over third-ranked Norway to qualify is doubly impressive. (Unfortunately, that link is broken, but here's a 2017 story that covers much of the same territory.)

In Canada, curlers are treated like rock stars. 1 million Canadians (out of 38 million) play the sport.  Canada's Project Explorer created a video explaining the science of curling.

The Science of Curling from in Canada from on Vimeo.

They put out a version for younger viewers, but I don't see much difference between the content.

The Science of Curling from in Canada (jr. version) from on Vimeo.

This phase diagram explains why curling is done on water ice instead of some dry (CO2) ice or pretty much any other substance.  Slide from Columbia Environmental Chemistry class.  The melting point of water decreases with increasing pressure.  If you press down hard enough on the ice, you can melt it.

Until I saw the Project Explorer video, I hadn't realized that curling is done on a pebbled surface. But the pebbling and brushing is crucial if you do the math.

Pebbling reduces the contact area between the stone and the ice by a significant fraction, probably 50% or more.  That allows the stone to glide further.

A 20 kg stone with a 10 cm radius (bottom contact area) would yield an extra 628 Pascals above atmospheric pressure (101300 Pascals).  That's not enough to melt the ice.  (What's the maximum contact area for an ice skate so that a 60 kg figure skater will melt the ice under her?)

Brushing with something rough, like the scouring pad material would create enough frictional heat to melt the ice so that the stones can slide easily.

And then there are all the things you can do with angular momentum when throwing the stone.

Thanks for the emails enquiring about my health.  I am happy to report that I am over the cold and the subsequent asthma flare-up.  I hope to get back up to speed next week.


  1. I used to watch the curling when
    I was small, out at the dam when we skated. Back then it seemed you had to be male, monosyllabic, over 60 (or look like you were), wear a tam o shanter and ideally smoke a pipe. But in Dunedin, NZ, they have an ice rink next to the main one that is mainly the preserve of curlers and they come in all varieties. I agree it is fun to watch. They call it lawn bowls on ice but I think that underrates it a little!

    1. Oops meant to start by saying thanks for the science behind it! I knew the brushing was essential but not why, till now.

  2. Beautifully combining physics with fashion, here is the Norwegian curling team.

    1. Oh, the pants. The Norwegian men's team is adorkable.

      I am especially fond of the Harlequin diamonds and Norwegian flag motifs.

  3. There are three curling clubs in southern California: Curl San Diego, Hollywood Curling, & Orange County Curling Club.

    Sadly, the Dublin ice rink does not have curling.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. In traffic time, those places (just 25-35 miles away) might as well be the moon. Read the Congratulations, team post to see how many millions of people share the freeways. It's a real impediment.

  4. " doesn’t always matter if we do well or not, people still think that we win stuff because we are always in the media.” Words to live by.

  5. Love the information on the science behind curling. I don't think I knew anything about it before the 2010 winter olympics, but I look forward to it now.

  6. And it is FUN! You should try it!

  7. Anonymous10:36

    Thanks for sharing our Science of Curling video. the difference between the two is that the jr. version does not include the concept of the Conservation of Momentum.

    Jenny - Dir, New York, NY


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