Science Determines The Best Stones For Skimming

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Next time you’re attempting to skim a stone off the water, do it like a pro. Scientists advised on Wednesday that if you want the highest potential bounce, you should forego the typical thin, flat options in favor of a thicker, curvier rock. Skimming stones over bodies of water is an ancient activity, and any seasoned skipper will tell you that choosing the right rock is essential.

According to Ryan Palmer, a mathematician at Bristol University in the UK, you may get these new fascinating dynamics out of pebbles that you generally reject, even if thin, flat stones still provide the highest likelihood of a maximum number of skips. Bigger, rounder rocks may be used for something quite different, but no less impressive: diving off the deep end.

Recent work published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A employs a physics-based mathematical model to perform numerical integration of equations that date back centuries. The researchers had started off investigating the more severe problem of aviation icing, namely how ice crystals deflect off a coating of liquid that forms on the wings of planes.

It turned out that the interactions were quite similar to those you or I would experience if we stood at the edge of a lake and attempted to skim a stone over the water. The researchers discovered that a heavier rock elicited a greater reaction due to its increased weight, leading to a greater height jumped.

It makes logical, he continued, that a heavier rock would put greater force into the interaction when the stone impacted the water, as the horizontal velocity is converted to the vertical. The spherical shape is also important because it helps the heavier stones bounce off the water. If you want to give large skips a go, Palmer says the method hasn’t changed: toss as perpendicularly as you can to the surface of the water.