Tie on your skates and jump on the ice. We've got lots of life lessons to discuss today...

Work with physics, not against it

At first glance, today's title might seem like an obvious bit of advice. In reality, human history is full of us trying to fight physics. Think of the dream to fly, and the many early attempts that were doomed to fatal failure. Or think of the aesthetic idea in many cultures that the harder you make something to do, the more civilized or refined it is.

That second idea is what was behind the rule in early ice skating competition that all skaters had to keep their hands below their waist. You see, keeping your hands up helps you to work with physics and therefore makes skating easier. By keeping your hands low and trying to avoid using them at all you were increasing the difficulty of ever move. Thing is, if competitive skating had maintained that rule, we never would have gotten the rich variety of spins and jumps that we see in figure skating today, nor would we be able to choreograph in the beautifully expressive ways that make figure skating and ice dance so much fun to watch.

If you want to make a plane fly, you have to work with physics to create an aerodynamic vehicle and get it up into the air. If you want to ice skate you have to cooperate with physics in order to create the most spectacular moves. We pull our hands in tight and cross our legs to rotate faster and check our spins with open arms and pointed free leg toe to stop rotation. We use leverage in toe jumps to get up into the air. We use our legs and feet like springs to launch on edge jumps. We control our center of balance in order to minimize the effort put into any move.

So, if you want to understand what's going right or wrong with your skating moves, you should think carefully about the physics of the move. Take a look at videos of top skaters who can do what you are trying to do perfectly and at videos of skaters who are making mistakes. Take a look at videos of your own skating. Think about what the physical forces in play are, and learn to skate smarter, not harder.

Of course, skating smarter doesn't mean you don't need a lot of strength and coordination to do the moves. It's a lot easier to contemplate the physics behind a move than it is to actually accomplish the move itself, but understanding what you need to do is definitely a step in the right direction.

And really, all of technology is a result of wanting to do something that seemed impossible before someone figured out how to use the resources around them and the laws of physics to accomplish their goal. Airplanes and cars, modern construction equipment and robots are all amazing inventions, but none of them work without a source of energy and without being properly constructed themselves. There is a huge gap of learning between understanding how an airplane flies and actually being able to design and build one of your own. But the journey is half the fun, so it's well worth the time and the effort.

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