Curling brooms, Newton’s first law of motion and why curling may be cooler than baseball


Canadian skip Brad Jacobs, center, delivers a stone as teammates Ryan Harnden, left, and E.J. Harnden sweep during their game against China. (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

Imagine if you could control the path of a baseball after it’s been thrown. How cool would that be? Well, guess what, in curling you can do just that with the stone.

In fact, curling might be the only sport in which a player can control the path of an object, without actually touching it, once it’s been put into play. Curling brooms are a bit like magic wands that way. Except, it’s actually all about physics — Newton’s first law of motion, to be exact, which states an object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

While in baseball that force is the weather elements and maybe the occasional unlucky bird, in curling, it’s so much more.

Curling ice isn’t smooth. It’s made with a pebbly texture which helps those 40-odd-pound stones curve as they slide down the rink. However, with the help of a curling broom and vigorous sweeping, the ice immediately in front of a thrown stone can be smoothed out, thus lessening the stone’s curl and allowing it to travel faster and in a straighter line.

A few odd sweeps here and there with a regular house broom won’t get the job done, though. Which is why curling equipment and curlers’ biceps (seriously, have you seen the Canadian men’s team this year?) are becoming more defined. This video does a pretty good job at chronicling the curling broom’s evolution. Thankfully the days of the “rink rat” are over.

Related: If you like football, you’ll love curling

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Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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