On Skipping Stones and Magic Angles

They’ve done it! The secrets of stone skipping have been revealed! And it is most certainly about time science tackled this age-old enigma. In this week’s Nature there is a published study of the best way to skip/skim stones. We’ve all wondered and pondered this very thing. Most recently in Pat’s entry about Pato’s fascination and marvel (by the way, you definitely skip “stones” not “rocks”). I will rest well knowing that scientists have been working hard on such problems. Seriously. I love the fact that they’ve discovered the “magic angle” - Brilliant! And as for ‘practical applications’ - sure, the ones mentioned in the article are nice, but how about just for skipping stones better? Isn’t that enough?

Here’s an excerpt:

Stone skipping has been a competitive past time for thousands of years. The aim—to achieve the maximum number of rebounds per throw—has remained unchanged since the time of the Ancient Greeks. Jerdone Coleman-McGhee, who in 1992 skipped a stone 38 times on the Blanco River in Texas, holds the world record.

DavidExplanations01/07/04 3 comments


Dad • 01/09/04 6:31 AM:

Ed Kaz and I have talked about this recently. Ed rememers our “personal” record as having been 23 skips. We, of course, developed the “magic angle” by trial and error, just like every other kid since ancient times.

The question comes up, how’d we count that high, that fast? All I can say is, we had a lot of time to develop our technique. And we were good.

Patrick • 01/09/04 7:18 PM:

What’s most amazing about Dad’s record is that he got it immediately after having held his arms outstretched, parallel to the ground, for THREE HOURS!

Dan • 01/17/04 1:16 AM:

This is one of those things that I don’t want scientific or engineering research figuring out. First of all, I don’t want to throw flat discs into the water. I want rocks. I think we all figure out empirically what the best angle to throw rocks is. That’s a rite of passage into adolescence, isn’t it? That’s my “second of all.”

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