SteelyKid: Junior Rock Star Scientist

I'm off to The City for TED@NYC on Tuesday, and while I might schedule something with the approximate text of my talk for Wednesday morning, more substantial blogging won't resume until Thursday. But I don't want to leave political post as the top thing on the blog, so here, have a cute kid picture.

This is SteelyKid at the Schenectady Curling Club, which had an open house this past weekend. Plan A was to go to the women's soccer game at Union instead, but I made the mistake of mentioning curling as a fallback in case of rain, and after half an hour of soccer, SteelyKid demanded "People pushing rocks on ice."

They gave us a rather detailed tutorial on how curling works, which SteelyKid refused to actually take part in, though I did. For the record, it's a good deal more work than the "shuffleboard on a hockey rink" elevator pitch might make you think. The sweeping is really hard work, but also really does make a difference in the distance the rocks travel. The glide position you're supposed to end up in is really uncomfortable for a middle-aged basketball player with bad ankles, though, so I won't be taking up the sport full-time any time soon.

For her part, while SteelyKid refused to take part in organized curling activities, she had a grand time pushing the rocks around and doing little kid science experiments. She figured out that the teflon pads they use for sliding on are only really slippery on one side, and if she flipped them over, they provided good traction for standing on-- this really alarmed the adult curlers, who had never thought of that, and assumed she was standing on them with the slippery side down, and thus about to take a header and sue. She also tried pushing rocks of various masses-- the ones she has in the picture are for kids, and half(?) the mass of the adult stones. She knocked them into each other, and tried seeing how far she could push each kind. And she enjoyed using the brooms to push stuff around.

Again, we're not going to be taking up the sport any time soon. Though I'm half tempted to contact them and see about using their ice to shoot some physics videos. Possible topics: What's the coefficient of friction between the stone and the ice? How much does sweeping change that? Use the collision between two stones to find the ratio of their masses. Investigate different rates of rotation to see how much the stone "curls" as a result. Feel free to suggest more in the comments.

(I really need to look into getting a better video camera if I'm going to keep thinking about this kind of thing...)

SteelyKid playing with the rocks at the Schenectady Curling Club's open house. SteelyKid playing with the rocks at the Schenectady Curling Club's open house.

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If you're using standard curling rocks, the ratio is going to be 1:1.

I assume he meant between kids' and adults' stones.