With the curling competitions at the 2014 Winter Olympics about to get underway, what better time to look at the work of Brett A. Marmo, Mark-Paul Buckingham, and Jane R. Blackford of the School of Engineering & Electronics and the Centre for Materials Science & Engineering, at The University of Edinburgh, UK, who have performed a series of empirical studies into the methodology, physics and game-implications of ‘sweeping’ in front of a moving granite curling stone (a.k.a. rock)?
In the first instance, see : ‘Design and use of an instrumented curling brush’ (in: Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part L: Journal of Materials Design and Applications, 2006, 220). The team designed and implemented a purpose built ‘sweep ergometer’ (prototype pictured right) in order to perform a quantitative measurement of the sweeping technique – believed to be the first time since the game’s invention. The energy-measuring brush was subsequently used in (at least) two further studies : ‘Optimising Sweeping Techniques for Olympic Curlers’ (In: The Engineering of Sport, 6, 2006, pp 249-254). And, (along with colleague I.S. Farrow) ‘Frictional heat generated by sweeping in curling and its effect on ice friction’ (in: Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part L: Journal of Materials: Design and Applications, October 1, 2006 vol. 220 no. 4 189-197)
BONUS (related) A video from the Friends of Canadian Institutes of Health Research, featuring Dr. Jim Till : “The Physics of Curling: Does Sweeping Matter?”