Thursday, May 26, 2005

Stone Skipping

With a sidearm toss and flick of the wrist, people young and old have been skipping stones across bodies of water for thousands of years. The object is simple: get as many bounces as possible.
Jerdone Coleman McGhee of Wimberley, Texas, holds the current Guinness Book of World Records title for a 1992 toss that yielded an impressive 38 bounces across the Blanco River in central Texas.
Want a shot at beating McGhee? Toss your stone so it hits the water at the "magic angle" of 20 degrees.
The hint comes from a team of French scientists who constructed a stone-skipping machine to find out the optimal speed, spin, and angle for the maximum number of bounces.
"If one changes slightly the initial conditions—different velocity, etc.—at this angle of 20 degrees, the stone still has more chances to rebounce than for any other angle," said Lydéric Bocquet, a physics professor at the University of Lyon.
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