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Ice Skating



Thanks to the freezing cold, our family ice rink is up and running as of this week; today was the first day that I managed to squeeze in a skate.  While physics has many applications to ice skating, the two I thought about today while freezing in the bitter cold were centripetal acceleration and work.  Because my rink is rather small, most of the time I am going around a turn instead of skating in a straight line.  As I was going around these turns, I realized that I was distributing a majority of my weight onto my inside foot.  In fact, at times, I would subconsciously lift my foot without any worry of falling over.  When I make a turn, I am naturally leaning my body into the center of the circle that I am making because of the centripetal force that acts on me and my body.  However, because of Newton's third law, the force pulling my body in and causing me to lean also has an equal and opposite force.  So in order to compensate, my body naturally shifts its weight to the left skate in order to keep my body in the circular motion and to avoid me skating off course (or in the direction of my tangential velocity).  Other components of physics that is very applicable are forces and work.  When professional ice skaters are moving very quickly and want to a stop, they often times turn their blades perpendicular to their direction of motion.  As a result, the skater slows down and ice flakes repel off of the surface.  Why?  Well, when the blade is parallel to the direction of motion, it experiences very frictional resistance because the surface area (front of the blade) that is coming into contact with the friction on the ice is very small.  However, when the skate is perpendicular, the frictional force is much greater because the surface area of the side of the blade is larger than the tiny sliver at the front of the blade.  So, when the skater turns his or her blade, a greater force is applied to the ice, and this larger force does work on the ice, which translate into flakes of ice.


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