Ice skating is moving on ice by using ice skates. It can be done for a variety of reasons, including exercise, leisure, traveling, and various sports. Ice skating occurs both on specially prepared indoor and outdoor tracks, as well as on naturally occurring bodies of frozen water, such as lakes and rivers.
A study by Federico Formenti of the University of Oxford suggests that the earliest ice skating happened in southern Finland more than 3000 years ago. Originally, skates were merely sharpened, flattened bone strapped to the bottom of the foot. Skaters did not actually skate on the ice, but rather glided on top of it. True skating emerged when a steel blade with sharpened edges was used. Skates now cut into the ice instead of gliding on top of it. Adding edges to ice skates was invented by the Dutch in the 13th or 14th century. These ice skates were made of steel, with sharpened edges on the bottom to aid movement. The construction of modern ice skates has stayed largely the same since then.
In the Netherlands, ice skating was considered proper for all classes of people, as shown in many pictures by the Old Masters. James II of England came to the Netherlands in exile, and he fell for the sport. When he returned to England, this "new" sport was introduced to the British aristocracy, and was soon enjoyed by people from all walks of life. It is said[who?] that Queen Victoria got to know her future husband, Prince Albert, better through a series of ice skating trips. Meanwhile Fenland agricultural workers became masters of speed skating. However, in other places, participation in ice skating was limited to members of the upper classes. Emperor Rudolf II of the Holy Roman Empire enjoyed ice skating so much he had a large ice carnival constructed in his court in order to popularise the sport. King Louis XVI of France brought ice skating to Paris during his reign. Madame de Pompadour, Napoleon I, Napoleon III, and the House of Stuart were, among others, royal and upper class fans of ice skating.
Physical mechanics of skating
A skate can slide over ice because the ice molecules at the surface cannot properly bond with the molecules of the mass of ice beneath and thus are free to move like molecules of liquid water. These molecules remain in a semiliquid state, providing lubrication.
It had long been believed that ice is slippery because the pressure of an object in contact with it causes a thin layer to melt. The hypothesis was that the blade of an ice skate, exerting pressure on the ice, melts a thin layer, providing lubrication between the ice and the blade. This explanation, called "pressure melting", originated in the 19th century. This, however, did not account for skating on ice temperatures lower than −3.5°C, whereas skaters often skate on lower-temperature ice. In the 20th century, an alternative explanation, called "friction heating", was proposed, whereby friction of the material was causing the ice layer melting. However, this theory also failed to explain skating at low temperature. In fact, neither explanation explained why ice is slippery when standing still even at below-zero temperatures.
Skating depends on the roughness of the ice, the design of the ice skate, and the skill and experience of the skater. While serious injury is rare, a number of short track skaters have been paralysed after a fall when they hit the boarding. Falling can be fatal if a helmet is not worn to protect against serious head trauma. Accidents are rare but most common with collisions, hockey games, or pair skating.
The second, and more serious, danger is falling through the ice into the freezing water underneath when skating outdoors on a frozen body of water. They can die due to shock, hypothermia or drowning. It is often difficult or impossible for skaters to climb out of the water back onto the ice due to the ice repeatedly breaking, the skater being weighed down by skates and thick winter clothing, or the skater becoming disoriented under water. The skater may even not be able to find the hole through which they fell. This may result in drowning or hypothermia, but the rapid cooling can also create a state in which someone can be revived up to hours after having fallen in the water. For safety, one should never skate alone in the darkness and as a rule bring nails or ice-claws when one is skating on a lake or river. They can help a disoriented skater get a grip on the ice when he or she is in the water. With them, the unfortunate skater can pull himself or herself out of the water.
Communal games on ice
A number of recreational skating games can be played on ice.
- Ice hockey
- Rousette skating is a recreational event based on ice skating.
- Various tag games with different rules
- Formenti, Federico; Minett, Alberto E. "The first humans traveling on ice: an energy-saving strategy?".
- "'Imperial' ice skating". People's Daily Online. February 20, 2013.
- Chang, Kenneth (February 21, 2006). "Explaining Ice: The Answers Are Slippery". New York Times.
- Somorjai, G.A. "Molecular surface structure of ice(0001 ): dynamical low-energy electron diffraction, total-energy calculations and molecular dynamics simulations". Surface Science 381 (1997) 190 210. "Most studies so far were performed at temperatures well above 240 K (-33°C) and report the presence of a liquid or quasiliquid layer on ice. Those studies that went below this temperature do not suggest a liquid-like layer."
- "Pitt physics professor explains the science of skating across the ice". Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette. December 23, 2012. "It used to be thought ... that the reason skaters can glide gracefully across the ice is because the pressure they exert on the sharp blades creates a thin layer of liquid on top of the ice... More recent research has shown, though, that this property isn't why skaters can slide on the ice... It turns out that at the very surface of the ice, water molecules exist in a state somewhere between a pure liquid and a pure solid. It's not exactly water -- but it's like water. The atoms in this layer are 100,000 times more mobile than the atoms [deeper] in the ice, but they're still 25 times less mobile than atoms in water. So it's like proto-water, and that's what we're really skimming on."
- "Slippery All the Time". exploratorium.edu. Archived from the original on July 19, 2012. "Professor Somorjai's findings indicate that ice itself is slippery. You don't need to melt the ice to skate on it, or need a layer of water as a lubricant to help slide along the ice... the "quasi-fluid" or "water-like" layer exists on the surface of the ice and may be thicker or thinner depending on temperature. At about 250 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-157°C), the ice has a slippery layer one molecule thick. As the ice is warmed, the number of these slippery layers increases."
- "Getting a Grip on Ice". Science Now. December 9, 1996.
- Rosenberg, Robert (December 2005). "Why is ice slippery?". Physics Today: 50–54. Retrieved 15 February 2009.
- Formenti F. and Minetti A.E. (2007) Human locomotion on ice: the evolution of ice skating energetics through history
- Formenti F. and Minetti A.E. (2008) The first humans travelling on ice: an energy saving strategy? ice skating.
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