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Application of Physics
To Ice Skating

Failure to see Relevance of Physics
       Many high school students who study physics fail to see that what they are studying has a real world application.
In everyday living we constantly come into contact with the physics. If you have not taken any courses is physics or simply slept throughout your high school physic class, visit the following excellent web site that expresses information the language of physics in a down to earth manner - Physics Problems And Solutions For Real World Applications.

Physics is a Fundamental Natural Sciences
       The study of physics involves universal laws that control the behaviors and relationships among a wide range of physical phenomena. In real life, we constantly interact with objects that function based on a few fundamental principles of physics. Applying these principles to solve realistic problems requires using a process known as "Logical reasoning and quantitative problem solving skills."

       Understanding the basic principles of physics is the first step in being able to applying the same concepts of physics to problem solving skills in new real life situations that can include everything from sports, games, accidents, etc. and velocity, acceleration, projectile motion, forces (contact and non-contact), and energy relate to these examples.

       How many figure skaters understand the properties of physics that allows them to glide over the ice, jump, and spin? What is the reason that they can turn and maneuver at full speed and not fly over the rink's barrier when they come to the end of the rink?

       Eventually successful skaters realize that it is easier to perform the "tricks" when they develop the ability to control their core body so they instinctive can balance over their skate. They acquire skills without understanding the natural principles that allow us to control our bodies and fail to comprehend how the mental skills determine the necessary physical actions and timing required to successfully engage in sports with precision, skill and grace.

      Even when figure skaters don't understand the physics involved, they use the law of conservation of angular momentum to gracefully control their spins and jumps.

      A physicists measures the amount of spinning motion using angular momentum. The higher the amount of angular momentum of a spinning object. the faster it is spinning. The amount of mass and the distance of the mass from the axis of rotation influence the rate of speed or number of rotations per second.
The length of time a skater can hold a spin is associated with the skater's ability to center the spin. If they lose their center of balance, the spin will begin to wobble and he center will shift/travel.

      Physicists use the moment of inertia as the rotational analogy to mass. The moment of inertia is determined by the mass and distance the mass is from the axis of rotation. Increasing either the mass or the distance that all or part of the mass is from the rotational axis will increase the moment of inertia.

      The definition of momentum used by a physicist is mass multiplied by the velocity, so physicists define angular momentum as the moment of inertia multiplied by the angular velocity.

       In an isolated system, with no external forces, the law of conservation of momentum states that the momentum is conserved. The law of conservation of angular momentum states that the angular momentum in an isolated system, with no external torques, will be conserved.

Adjusting the speed of Figure Skating Spins

The more rapidly a figure skater is spinning, the greater the angular velocity.

       A figure skater can alter his/her moment of inertia by controlling how close to his/her center of mass is to the axis of rotation. By extending her arms and one leg, a figure skater can increase the moment of inertia in a spin. By pulling the arms and legs close to body, a decrease in the moment of inertia occurs.

       To slow a spin, a skater simply extends both arms away from the core body. The moment of inertia increases, and the angular velocity correspondingly decreases.

       The same principles apply in performing a jump - after leaping from the ice, a skater is actually performing a spin in the air. By making adjustments in the distance the arms are from the center of the body axis, a figure skater can fine tune the moment of inertia and angular velocity. This same principle allows a figure skater to theoretically adjust the number of turns that will be precisely made in the air prior to landing the jump.

Source -

       The following articles discuss how physics applies to figure skating and ballet:

Physics of Ice Skating -
Recommended Reading:

Newton's Laws of Physics applied to Autos   Newton's laws of motion. Do you know why these laws are so important? When you throw a baseball or you bounce a basketball on the court, you can use Newton's laws to explain the motion of the baseball or basketball. In fact, almost all motion in the world can be explained by these laws.

Newton's laws are useful when people design airplanes, trains, cars, sports equipment, toys, and many things that have to do with motion. Some people have trouble understanding Newton's laws of motion because it's hard to see how the laws work without any examples. One great way to understand these laws is to look at how they relate to cars in everyday life.
Recommended by - Physics Students of Jessica Lee, Colorado Tutors Org.

Sir Isaac Newton's Three Laws of Motion. The First Law of Motion pertained to inertia, the Second Law of Motion explained the principles behind acceleration, and the Third Law of Motion asserted that every force was accompanied by an equal and opposite force.

In-Flight Barotrauma Think about the last time you were on an airplane or went swimming. You might have noticed that your ears had a strange feeling, almost like they were about to pop. This is actually a very common occurrence that happens to just about everyone at some point. It is called barotrauma, and there is a scientific explanation for it. Let's find out more about barotraumas and how to help relieve it.

Why Do Our Ears Pop In Airplanes? Why you move upwards to a higher level, the air pressure outside begins to drop. This means that the air that is inside your ears is now higher in pressure than the external air. Your body naturally attempts to decrease your internal pressure. You might notice this happening when an airplane takes off, or also while traveling up a mountain. Sometimes it even happens in elevators of very tall buildings! The changes in pressure can cause discomfort and sometimes a bit of pain. Sometimes it also temporarily becomes a little difficult to hear properly.

There are a few simple ways to cope with this. Keep some chewing gum on hand and chew away as you travel upwards. If you don't have any gum, try yawning or opening your mouth very wide. Plastic ear plugs can be purchased from pharmacies to help reduce the feeling of pressure. Finally, if you hold your nose, close your mouth, and blow gently, you will feel some pressure relief in your ears. Always make sure you don't blow too hard, since that could end up hurting your ears instead!

Recommend by - Frannie Davis, Science Student Teacher, Seattle Public Schools

On and Off-Ice Seminar Ideas


The Physics of Figure Skating | LiveScience   Feb. 16, 2010 ... Figure skating offers a perfect chance to watch physics in action. ... the ice, or " stroke" with their skates, they are applying a force down and backwards to propel themselves forward.

The Physics of Everyday Stuff - Figure Skating Spins Everyone has seen the classic "scratch spin" in figure skating, where the skater ... you pull the string on a top, you are applying a torque to make it speed up.

Figure Skating & Angular Momentum Conservation:  Dec. 14, 2009 ... Figure skaters use the physics law of conservation of angular momentum. The key is applying the physics principle of the conservation of angular momentum to the placement of the blade on the ice and force the skating blade exerts against the ice.


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Role of Physics in Skating

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