Day 4 of the Mop ‘n Glo preliminary rounds

Friday, February 19th, 2010 · 34 Comments »
Deluded British curlers attempt to influence an inanimate object with their minds.

Deluded British curlers attempt to influence an inanimate object with their minds.

Here’s my problem with curling (okay, one of my problems with curling): I don’t believe it. I don’t think it’s true. The people with the Swiffer mops, furiously scrubbing in front of the rock? Bullshit. I don’t think they’re accomplishing anything.

Think about it. Curling is basically bowling on ice. Can you imagine if bowling was played this way? If after the bowler let go of the ball, it was accompanied down the alley by two people scrubbing the floor in front of it to get rid of whatever microscopic piece of Cheeto dust might be in its path? And all the while shrieking at the ball, shrieking at each other, shrieking back to the bowler to tell him/her how fast the ball is going, while the bowler in turn shrieks things like “more to the left!!!!” I mean, I can imagine bowling like that if you were on acid or something. Or maybe if you had a serious case of magical thinking, and thought that you could control the trajectory of inanimate objects by yelling and scrubbing a little broom on the floor.

But I’m sorry, I just don’t believe that the Swiffer mop people in curling are making a goddamn bit of difference to where that rock goes or how fast it goes.

I want to do an experiment to see. First, we’ll need a split-screen video. Then we’ll need a Schrödinger wave-collapser to split reality in two at the moment the curler releases the rock. In one world line, the rock will be accompanied by the usual shrieking Swiffer people scrubbing the floor in front of it. In the other world line, there will be no Swiffers and no shrieking; just the rock gliding on its merry way. I bet there won’t be a Cheeto particle’s worth of difference.

That’s my bet. Anybody wanna take me up on it?

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34 Responses to “Day 4 of the Mop ‘n Glo preliminary rounds”

  1. votermom says:

    Not taking your bet, but it just occurred to me that I need to organize curling “practice” in my house to get the kids to sweep the floor! It’s brilliant!

  2. Kali says:

    It’s probably got to do with using the mops/brooms to reduce the friction of the ice in front of the rock to make it go faster in a particular direction.

  3. Violet Socks says:

    Oh, sure, that’s what they say. I just don’t believe it.

  4. votermom says:

    while the bowler in turn shrieks things like “more to the left!!!!”

    Umm … that is kind of how I play bowling, actually. I even do little handwaving gestures and stomp.

  5. Dongi says:

    Love your reference to Schrodinger and the split reality systems. From cats to curling rocks, my God, what else is next? And, why is this curling stuff on NBC every god damned day? How about something live (and lively) like alpine skiing, skating, bobsledding etc?

  6. merciless says:

    I have to stick up for curling. Two Olympics ago, I had the flu. The bad flu. The kind where I was sick for a month and thought I was a’gonna DIE any minute.

    Daytime teevee being what it is, I started watching curling. It was relaxing. I could imagine myself belonging to a parks-and-rec curling club in Racine and going out for beers afterward. I wanted to be broom chick. Mostly of course I wanted to not have the flu, but it was what I had at the moment. So it’ll always have a little spot in my heart, for being there in my hour of need.

  7. bluelyon says:

    @ Dongi – Or hockey, for crying out loud. Last night there was literally a 20-second update on the Canada-Switzerland game which was a nail-biter. Unbelieveable.

  8. TheOtherDelphyne says:

    Is this one of the segregated sports? I mean, do men curl or are they kept away because they might out sweep and mop the women and we wouldn’t want to embarrass the women because, I mean, women OWN the brooms and mops and men couldn’t POSSIBLY outperform them in what is such an obvious WOMEN’S sport.

    Heh – Mop and Glo preliminary!

  9. Anne says:

    I never really got this sport, but hey, I’d like to invite any or all of these teams to my house, more specifically my kitchen, anytime. I’ll supply the cleaning fluid! Seriously, am I the only one thinking I could put some type of magnet in the swiffer and inside the ball, and guide it to it’s destination, rather than just yelling at it to turn left?

  10. votermom says:

    merciless, it looks like fun, doesn’t it?
    It reminds me of when we were kids we’d have to wax the floors then afterwards we’d drive mom crazy by sliding around on our socks.

  11. merciless says:

    Sliding around in our socks! LOL! I LOVED doing that.

  12. parallel says:

    You can see the way that the brush affects the ice with an infrared camera

    The sweeping is actually quite a skill.

  13. scott says:

    Don’t go around my wife hating on curling – I think she might cut you, or at least give you a very dirty look. To her, I think, curling has an appeal because it evokes for her what the earliest primitive winter sports might have been like – we got ice, we got rocks, we got sticks and twigs, what can we come up with? And Caveman and Cavewoman go forth…..

  14. anniethena says:

    I’m not a fan of curling either but you might like to read about Sandra Schmirler (yeah, dubbed Schmirler the Curler), Canadian sports hero (shero?). Sadly, she died at age 36 of cancer, two years after skipping her team to gold at the 1998 Olympics.
    Here’s the wiki entry, which has links at the bottom for further information : Sandra Schmirler

  15. Violet Socks says:

    Oh, people, I don’t hate curling. I think it’s hilarious. Hilarious and weird.

    Sports I hate are the sweaty ones in the Summer Olympics. At least the curling people don’t sweat. And they’re dressed in nice comfortable clothes, all ready for a day at the mall, or maybe the Olympics. Whatever.

    By the way, parallel, thank you very much for that video! However, I note that it still doesn’t prove that the sweeping has any real effect on the rock.

  16. FembotsForObama says:

    Violet @15

    I about spewed my afternoon coffee on the screen. Having gone to a highschool in northern WI, I totally understand what you mean about curling being a laughable sport. We used to secretly laugh uproariously at the people who lettered in it. But, when I tried it myself, it was damn hard to get that rock going where you want it with the appropriate amount of sweeping!

    And, as for the vid, we have to wait until JUNE until we can see the proof for ourselves ;)

  17. FembotsForObama says:

    BTW — did anyone see the Simpsons episode of them curling in the Olympics????? It was hilarious! Here is a peak:

  18. Adrienne in CA says:

    However, I note that it still doesn’t prove that the sweeping has any real effect on the rock.

    Oh, but it does prove that men are slightly more effective at not having any effect than women are. What would we do without research to prove women’s inherent inferiority!


  19. Keri says:

    Well the Summer Olympics does have gymnastics, that’s indoors and fast. But other than that and the pool events (also fast events) I don’t watch as much of the Summer Olympics as the Winter.

  20. allimom99 says:

    How it works – see article @

  21. allimom99 says:

    How it works – see article @ (Physics of Curling)

  22. lambert strether says:

    Why does Violet hate Canadians?

  23. hm says:

    I am sure you could have found this googling:

    See the preview.

    I agree with you that their shrieking will have any significant impact on moving the rock.

  24. Nessum says:

    What I like about curling is watching the way the players walk-glide. It looks like so much fun to do. And yes, just like “sliding around on our socks” as kids!

    Btw, do you know the term “curling parents”? Parents vigorously sweeping away any and all (perceived) obstacle in front of their offspring. (Who in turn might be what is called a “trophy child”.)

  25. B. Dagger Lee says:

    You probably already figured out how to watch the Olympics online–I know you were complaining a while ago, but in case you haven’t:

  26. Violet Socks says:

    Thanks, BDL. I’ll try a couple of those. What I’ve found so far is that CTV and Vancouver 2010 both block you if you have an American IP. Which means Americans are stuck watching whatever NBC is willing to show us online (curling).

  27. Swannie says:

    When the Olympics were described as experiencing ” The Agony and the Ectasy “… I always thought of curling as part of the agony…

  28. Swannie says:

    And you scared me when you described Curling as the Housekeeping Olympics becuase I had said the exact smae thing to a friend of mine on the phone LOL

  29. Puget Sound Island Girl says:

    I am fascinated with curling. It’s my favorite winter Olympic sport. Yes, I already know I am a dork. That’s okay, I am comfortable with that title.

  30. Simon Kenton says:

    It was clear when watching that when the stone (or whatever it is called; birds have the most interesting names, but sports objects aren’t far behind) was released on a course that would have carried it to one side of the bullseye, that the sweepers tried to bend the path. I was a bit startled to see that it worked. The effect was minimal: about 6″ over 150 feet relative to a midline. But it was distinct, it did happen, the new course curved until it centered the aiming point.

    And then it overshot the center and continued past. Only a couple feet, but past. Which, by then, was what I was expecting. If you can alter the course laterally by altering the friction the stone encounters, it follows that it would meet less friction down the whole length and carry a little more momentum and distance than the initial push would have conferred. I also noticed that when the lateral deviation had been cured, the sweepers quit. Not quite soon enough: it did go too far. But, they knew it was out, they knew how to correct it, they did correct it, and they nearly halted in time to avoid the overshot.

    I had expected the whole thing to be about as interesting as reading a treatise on the varieties of whole life insurance while puffing on an exercise bicycle. I concluded that there is real skill here. There’s a sort of glacial (Pardon me) stateliness to the Newtonian mini-universe of curling. It’s much less dull than I first thought. It’s almost up there with reading about the use of life insurance to support otherwise-unacknowledged extramarital offspring.

  31. riverdaughter says:

    I like curling. It’s very relaxing to watch. There’s not a lot of drama.
    As for the swiffers, there’s probably a lot of physics behind it. You know, coefficient of friction, behavior of particles and elastic collisions. They make it look trivial but I’m betting that the stone doesn’t travel with as much potential force were it not for the brooms.
    To each his/her own, violet. It’s not just a woman’s sport and there’s nothing wrong with cleaning implements. They will not hurt you, or so I keep telling myself.

  32. LibOne says:

    Last night I watched the Women’s Curling competition while I was on the treadmill at the gym. Just today I listened to the Scientific American podcast on the physics of curling. Now I’m a fan.

  33. Three Wickets says:

    I love curling. Huge deal in places like Minnesota. Very strategic sport. The thinking person’s event. :)

  34. datechguy says:

    I think it’s more like Bocce on ice