Science of the Winter Olympics: Curling Up with a Good Rock | Community Idea Stations


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Science of the Winter Olympics: Curling Up with a Good Rock

One of the oddest events on the schedule in Pyonchang, curling did not become an official Olympic sport until 2002. It reaches another milestone this year, when mixed doubles will be added to the event for the first time.

But the history of curling goes all the way back to 16th century Scotland, where the 42-pound stones are still mined from the same quarry for consistency. And while it may look nothing like other Olympic events, winning it relies on a force familiar to many winter sports: friction.

“Pebbling” the ice beforehand creates small hills and valleys in the surface, reducing direct contact so the stones can really fly toward their targets, 100 feet away. Players can change the friction again by “brushing” the ice in a stone’s path before it stops. (Just watch out for the other stones—they are built to precisely transfer their kinetic energy on contact!)

Watch this quick video to see how curlers aim their stones to victory—even after letting go.

Want to know more? Check out the National Science Foundation’s “Science of the Winter Olympics” video playlist.