COLD HARD SCIENCE.The Physics of Skating on Ice (With SlowMo) – Smarter Every Day 110

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Infographics are Here:

Figure skate, Hockey skate, and blade diagram Graphics by Kelly Richard.
Clap skate, Plantar Flexion, and outro logo by Emily Weddle.

I shot the skaters with a Phantom MIRO LC320S made by Vision Research:
Most speeds were around 1750 fps, but I shot the Hocket skid at closer to 3500 fps.

Music made by Gordon McGladdery, “A Shell In the Pit”.
Gordon’s work is awesome, you should check it out.

Glenn Replogle, the Figure Skating and Hockey Player coach was great to work with. Also, a big thanks to Glenn for helping me borrow two skates from the Huntsville IcePlex.

Nick Laurila was very helpful and accommodating. We also became friends pretty fast. It would bring me great joy if people reading this video randomly years into the future would randomly tweet hot dog photos with the words “Here’s a Hot Dog on @SmarterEveryDay” to him . He has reminders setup in his phone when local fast food chains have “Dollar Hot Dog day”. It’s quite funny, but deep down I’m jealous of how clever it is.

Robert Farrell answered my Facebook appeal for Photographers/Videographers in the Milwaukee Wisconsin area and filmed the skaters at the Pettit National ice Center for me.
He’s a photographer

With thanks to:

JR Ginex-Orinion – he helped me by putting the equation in LaTex and giving me a file. This saved me a lot of time and I’m grateful.

Kevin Butler at the Pettit National Ice Center in Wisconsin was helpful in coordinating the filming of the speed skaters.


If you want to learn this in detail stop what you’re doing and read the three pages around “Equation 5” in this book. I was particularly interested in the “warm ice” vs “cold ice” issues.

This is also a great article about why ice is slippery:
Tweet ideas to me @SmarterEveryDay

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Warm Regards,



JingerPi says:

“clap skate” so basically a flip flop?…

Ted Larson says:

I knew there were a lot of physics involved with sports but never this much. Great video.

Buzz Mas says:

5:33 yeah, but most all of it is subconscious, like unicycling

Kentha Lor says:


Blue Collar says:

Never knew there was a double edge

Harald Grønvold says:

On the subject of the mathematics done in the hockey player’s head, I want to bring up Brian Cox’ old joke; “can a chimpanzee be thought to do trigonometry?”. Movement can be described by mathematics, but the “feel” that every athlete shows, definitely works by another mechanism. We refer to it as “muscle memory”, but I don’t think I like that term.

What about “neuroefficiency”? When all the equations have been solved again and again, maybe a “table of all the equations and their answers” is embedded into the very structure of the brain, simplified and reinforced over years of practice, to the point where the sound of an approaching hockey puck drowned in background noise and a shadow in the corner of your eye triggers a series of muscle contractions to hit the puck while most of your brain is free to continue the interview.

EebstertheGreat says:

It turns out that the basic physics of the slipperiness of ice is more complicated than that and still not completely understood.

Fritz Pichler says:

Actually the PRESSURE is melting the ice to create the thin water layer between the blade and ice.

Chrystie Castillo says:

The torque in figure skating is immense- it can be up to 10x one’s body weight. Adult figure skater here :-)

sam signorelli says:

Do a vid on fencing….some interesting blade behaviors going on there.

UndeadSqueaker says:


Era Aion says:

Red people don’t win gold medals.

U Wot M8 says:

Does anyone else have this irrational fear of getting their fingers chopped off by an ice skate?

dimondback downhiller says:

Hey Destin can you do a smarter every day on skiing

Wolf says:

goalie skate should be in there to

IllisMoreo 87 says:

I think the outstretched arms of figure skaters act in the same principle of (counter)balancing like the tails of animals which sprinted or moved & need their tails to help them navigate their bodies. Also, just like when acrobatics use them (any free limbs too) when they do their thing as well XD

DinoHunter444 says:

I’ve always admired and wished to be a hockey player but this makes me admire them even more. I KNEW it took skill and practice but wow…

xXSmallFry05Xx Gaming says:

Hockey = op in my life

Nick Petrilli says:

This is so awesome.
You should do a similar video about skiing.

emeraldplaysmc g says:

Why do I feel like I’m the only one that lives in Milwaukee?

Cadell Van Den Heuvel says:

A deeper edge on a hockey skate is not slower. The depth of edge better correlates to how easy it is to move laterally vs. forwards and backwards. A deeper cut blade allows you to get more power into the ice, since your skates are angled as you stride. Since the deeper cut blade restricts lateral motion, more of your stride power goes into moving you forward. For goalie skates, you use a shallower cut blade, since you want to be able to move laterally more easily, but the trade-off is that it’s more difficult to skate forward and backwards, which is why goaltenders use c-cuts for a large portion of their movement.

Eddie Duque says:

Great Video! Thank you very much. I’m getting smarter by the second watching your videos. 😉

Blue Collar says:

“Toe pick!”…lol

The Emerald Staff says:

What would happen if you heated up the skates? Would the skates go faster due to the ice melting faster or would it slow it down do to more friction because there is more of a divot

WBK Pro12 says:

You forgot one more skate. The goalie skates. We have very different blades so we can push around on the ice

EwL says:

Hockey players are not geniuses. Ive played hockey for 12 years and ive never met a smart hockey player

King Charles says:

I hate most of the garbage on this channel, this is an exception. Good work

Katie Hackney says:


Bradley Pumba says:

I hate hate hate figure skates after 10 minutes of hockey skates I was never able to go back

Aaron Miller says:

5:29 it’s not like that at all lmao

SoffiaTiaMaria says:

Is ice “slipperier” for heavier skaters? Or not enough pressure to make a difference? & if I’d did would that mean more falling or better spins?

Christopher Paul says:

he rolls his neck so much

Fedor Vorobey says:

This is amazing but I gotta say no hockey player uses their knowledge of physics and math in order to stop, as hockey is a fast paced game it the actual physics and maths that goes in to it is really cool.

malhar jajoo says:

Im sorry but this isnt that complicated ! Most of it becomes 2nd nature with practice.

Either you dont play sports or you are just over-complicating things.

Ian Balbas says:

whats with the random cartel like mattress companies popping out of nowhere with the “witty” commercial wars

Shawn Deen says:

i am 10 and i play hockey, so i am a young genius

Sakura pizza says:

im a figure skater and i have never stopped any way other than then going in and out with my skates

Dylan Bartholomaus says:

Maybe take a look at goalie skates in hockey. There alot different from from player skates and how we use them is also.

Tim Tögel says:

My teacher asked us how does ice skating work and because of your Video i got a better grade… thanks

OreoDog says:

It’s not the force exerted on the ice by the person that creates the thin layer of water. The thin layer of water is inherently already there simply based on the atmospheric conditions at the surface of the ice. If you actually use the equations at the end you’ll see that our weight in the ice makes barely a difference

Colter Barnett says:

Yeah I don’t know about having to be a genius to play hockey. I started playing hockey when I was five and stopping is all muscle memory! Great video though!

kk 123 says:

Such an epidemic of mansplaining, sad.

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