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Secrets of successful stone-skipping

Naturevolume 427page29 (2004) | Download Citation


Hitting the water at a magic angle gives top performance in a time-honoured pastime.


Skipping stones across water has been a popular pastime for thousands of years — the rules of the game have remained unchanged since the time of the ancient Greeks1 — and the world record, set by J. Coleman-McGhee in 1992, is believed to be 38 rebounds2. Following earlier attempts3,4,5,6 to analyse the physics of this ancestral human activity, we focus here on the crucial moment in stone skipping: when the stone bounces on the water's surface. By monitoring the collision of a spinning disc with water, we have discovered that an angle of about 20° between the stone and the water's surface is optimal with respect to the throwing conditions and yields the maximum possible number of bounces.

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  1. Institut de Recherche sur les Phénomènes Hors Équilibre, UMR 6594 du CNRS, BP 146, Marseille, 13384, France

    • Christophe Clanet
  2. Ecole Polytechnique, Palaiseau, 91128, France

    • Fabien Hersen
  3. Laboratoire PMCN, UMR CNRS 5586, Université Lyon-I, Villeurbanne, 69622, France

    • Lydéric Bocquet


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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Christophe Clanet.

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