Sports and Physics Collide

Friday, 23. February 2018

Recently Chris took his AP Physics class to Interlaken for their first experience with curling. Chris started curling six years ago, and he loves sharing the sport and its unique physics with students. After experimenting with the stones and ice, the group faced off in a short game which resulted in a 1-1 tie.

Chris explained the connection between conservation of mechanical energy and sliding speed during the delivery of a stone - "The higher you are in the hack, the faster you will slide because your gravitational potential energy is larger, so the kinetic energy can be larger. It is much easier to control your speed this way than controlling how hard you push with your leg."

Students tried to find the physics explanation for why curlers sweep the stone, and they correctly explained that it helps to heat up the ice, thereby reducing the friction, which allows the stone to travel a longer distance. It doesn't cause the stone to curl though, and the physics behind the curl is much more complex and no definitive explanation exists to date!

The AP Physics class is currently learning about conservation of momentum and collisions, so this was a great opportunity to see almost perfectly elastic collisions in action. We set up several situations and watched as the stones collided, demonstrating both conservation of momentum and energy.

In the afternoon students shared their experience in a "Schulgemeinde" (School assembly) presentation. It was heartening to see the students (and MitarbeiterInnen) so engaged in the learning process!

A special thank you to Andy Waser at the Eissportzentrum Interlaken for allowing us to use the facilities free of charge.