The Physics of Ice Skating - Frictionless Ice?

For a neat thought experiment, imagine what ice skating would be like on frictionless ice.  It really makes you appreciate the balance between low and high friction in the sport.  In fact, let's go even further, and think about baseball played on frictionless ice. (Thanks to the magic schoolbus for this idea!)

       Okay, you're at the plate, and the pitch is heading in. You hit the ball, and as the ball streakes forward, you recoil backward (conservation of momentum).  Fortunately, the backstop is arranged so you bounce off and head for first (I'm assuming that there are stationary "posts" in this game.)  You push off the backstop to get more speed, but it's still an agonizingly slow glide to first.  Short of flapping your arms, there's nothing you can do to speed up!   

       The shortstop fields the ball, which causes her to recoil backward. She throws, which causes her to recoil backward even more (bye, shortstop!)   The first baseman makes an error on the catch, so you take second base. To do that, you choose not to grab the "stop pole" at first. Instead, you shoot through through a curved chute, which curves your path toward second.  It's a long glide to second, but you grab the stop pole and are safely there.

       For more fun, imagine how the pitcher would look - he throws the ball and then immediately flails around to catch a post and stop himself.  Or imagine a rundown in frictionless baseball.  

Back to the Physics of Ice Skating

by Karen Knierman and Jane Rigby