The mechanism that puts the curl in the curling stone revealed

May 13, 2013
curling

Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden can now reveal the mechanism behind the curved path of a curling stone. The discovery by the researchers, who usually study friction and wear in industrial and technical applications, is now published in the scientific journal Wear.

In the curling sport, the players shoot their stones along the ice so that they slowly slide towards the target area, almost 30 m away. The game has its name from the slightly curved "curled" path taken by the , when released with a slow rotation. This curled path is important since it is used to reach open spots behind previously played stones, or take out opponent stones behind hindering "guarding" stones. As soon as the player releases the stone, it is only affected by the against the ice. The friction can be slightly reduced, and therefore the sliding distance somewhat increased by intensively sweeping the ice just in front of the sliding stone.

If the player gives the stone a clockwise rotation as it is released, it curls to the right, while an anti clockwise rotating stone will curl to the left. The stone is heavy, almost 20 kg, and the rotation is very slow, typically 2-3 rotations during the roughly 25 seconds it takes to slide to the target. This is much too slow to cause the curved path taken by the ball in sports such as table tennis, tennis or soccer.

Despite years of among the curlers and several , so far no one has been able to present a good explanation to why the curling stones actually curl; "What puts the curl in the curling stone?". Interestingly, other rotating objects sliding over a surface curl in the opposite direction (make a by sliding for example a glass turned upside down over a ).

However, the mechanism has now been revealed by researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden. Harald Nyberg, Sara Alfredsson, Sture Hogmark and Staffan Jacobson, who usually study friction and wear in technical and industrial material systems, describe in their article that the curved path is due to the microscopic roughness of the stone producing microscopic scratches in the ice sheet. As the stone slides over the ice the roughness on its leading half will produce small scratches in the ice. The rotation of the stone will give the scratches a slight deviation from the sliding direction. When the rough protrusions on the trailing half shortly pass the same area, they will cross the scratches from the front in a small angle. When crossing these scratches they will have a tendency to follow them. It is this scratch-guiding or track steering mechanism that generate the sideway force necessary to cause the curl.

The importance of having a proper roughness of the sliding surface on the stone to give it he expected trajectory, is since long known among curlers. However, this has not previously been coupled to the steering mechanism. While working on their model the Uppsala researchers experimented with pre-scratching of the ice in various ways, and could then observe that also non-rotating stones could be guided. Stones with very smooth, polished sliding surface were however not affected by the scratches. They also investigated the microscopic scratches made by the stones by moulding replicas of the , that were subsequently studied in microscopes.

Explore further: Study says exercise cuts kidney stone risk in women

More information: The new results have been published in "The asymmetrical friction mechanism that puts the curl in the curling stone", Nyberg, H., S. Alfredsson, S. Hogmark, and S. Jacobson, Wear (2013), dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wear.2013.01.051

The researchers have also published a validation of older models, showing why they cannot satisfactorily explain the curling mechanisms: H. Nyberg, S. Hogmark, and S. Jacobson, "Calculated trajectories of curling stones sliding under asymmetrical friction - validation of published models". Tribology Letters, on line DOI 10.1007/s11249-013-0135-9, (April 2013)

Related Stories

Curling Science

Feb 11, 2010

Since becoming an official Winter Olympic sport in 1996, the sport of curling has draws a surprisingly large TV audience for an event that features slick-shoed competitors sweeping brooms in front of stones ...

Factors ID'd for outcome of percutaneous nephrolithotomy

Jul 03, 2012

(HealthDay) -- Single-tract percutaneous nephrolithotomy (sPCNL) is effective for clearing renal stones, with stone size, location, and prior shockwave lithotripsy (SWL) identified as independent predictors ...

Finnish researchers find explanation for sliding friction

May 29, 2012

Friction is a key phenomenon in applied physics, whose origin has been studied for centuries. Until now, it has been understood that mechanical wear-resistance and fluid lubrication affect friction, but the fundamental origin ...

Flies reveal kidney stones in-the-making

Apr 06, 2013

Kidney stones usually make their presence known suddenly, often sending a person to the hospital in excruciating pain. Each year in the U.S. more than a million people seek medical attention for kidney stones, technically ...

Recommended for you

How to test the twin paradox without using a spaceship

19 hours ago

Forget about anti-ageing creams and hair treatments. If you want to stay young, get a fast spaceship. That is what Einstein's Theory of Relativity predicted a century ago, and it is commonly known as "twin ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. ...

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...