Here’s the Physics Behind the ‘Broomgate’ Controversy Rocking the Sport of Curling

Here’s the Physics Behind the ‘Broomgate’ Controversy Rocking the Sport of Curling
June 13 10:39 2016 Print This Article

Football has been rocked by the “Deflategate” scandal, swimming banned full-body “super suits,” and now the sport of curling—yes, curling—has its own raging controversy. Dubbed “Broomgate,” much of the fuss centers on a new kind of curling broom called the icePad, manufactured by Hardline Curling.

It’s not that the players are opposed to new technology in general; they’re just worried the icePad and similar high-tech equipment are altering the fundamentals of the sport in troubling ways by drastically reducing the level of skill required. The World Curling Federation temporarily banned the icePad for the 2015/2016 season, and is now considering new regulations to address this growing concern among players.

As a game, curling is pretty simple—kind of like bocce ball on ice. One person on a team slides a heavy granite stone (or “rock”) down the ice. Then two other team members madly sweep the ice in front of the stone with little brooms, trying to get as close as possible to the center of a target area made up of four colored, concentric rings. The more you sweep, the longer the stone will travel and the less it will curl.

Sometimes you want it to curl, or don’t want it to travel as far. It depends on the initial throw. So the sweepers are guided by the “skip”: a player who watches how the stone is moving and instructs the sweepers on how to adjust their sweeping to keep the stone on the best trajectory. The teams take turns throwing eight curling stones each, per “end” (there are usually eight to ten such “ends” in a game). Whoever gets the most stones closest to the target center wins.

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