Curling was first created in 16th century Scotland, where river bottom rocks were slid across ice-covered lochs to a target. In modern times, the “roaring game,” named for the sound of the “stone” sliding across the ice, is more refined. It consists of a 41 pound granite stone sliding across 42 m of ice to a target called a house, utilizing pebbled ice rinks, brooms, curling shoes, and carefully formed stones.
The ice rinks used for Curling are not smooth, but have a pebbled surface made by spraying the rink with water and allowing the tiny droplets to freeze on its surface. This surface is necessary for the stone to have suction and slide across the ice. Two players with “brooms” vigorously sweep the ice immediately in front of the stone to influence the trajectory, or direction it travels. These players wear a “gripping” shoe and a “sliding shoe,” which allow them to use friction to move along the ice. As the stone travels, the interaction between the stone, ice, and sweeping changes the sources of friction, and cause the stone to “curl” in a curved trajectory, giving the sport its name.
Although there are many theories, it is poorly understood as to what causes the stone to curl as it travels along the ice. As the sport gains popularity, further scientific inquiry can be expected to explore the role of friction and different sweeping styles.
Learn the basics or read about the technical aspects of friction in curling.
Articles by Jessica Egan.