jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Consider the spherical skater


I’ll start with a joke that I first heard during a physics lecture in college.

There is a convention of dairy farmers who bring in three different experts to talk about how to increase milk production.

The first is a mechanical engineer, who says: “If you want more milk, you will need to to increase milk production by improving your pumping system. Hook the cows up to bigger pumps and use bigger tubes.”

Then the psychologist presents his ideas: “If you make the cows happier they will produce more milk. Feed them more often, and play soothing music in the fields.”

Finally, the physicist comes up to the podium. He begins: “Consider the spherical cow. . . .”

So the idea of the “spherical cow” comes about when there is a very simple scientific model or explanation given for something that is really quite complex. In my class, we were talking about how atoms really work: not the nice model of nucleus and all those obediently-rotating electrons that Niels Bohr gave us, but something much more difficult to conceptualize (electrons all over the place!)


The funny thing is, in 2013 Aneta Stodolna, of the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in the Netherlands, along with Marc Vrakking at the Max-Born-Institute in Berlin, Germany, and other colleagues in Europe and the U.S., finally took a picture of the hydrogen atom. It looks, well, spherical.


All this is to say that this week I have been practicing my exercises while imagining that I am wrapping my body around the outside of a sphere. Laurie is having me think of my lean and body position as hugging a giant ball. All parts of my body, including my torso and head, have to get in on the hug.

It was a bit hard finding pictures that would illustrate this, but I did the best I could. Just look at how the lines of their bodies (sigh, there’s Ben Agosto again) follow imaginary spheres.

Figure Skating

ice dancing

This picture of dancers (from a 2013 performance “Little Mortal Jump” in Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance series) shows these curved body lines too.


The upshot is that this idea helps my alignment much more than if I think of myself as a stick figure trying to balance on a blade. It helps organize what might otherwise be randomly-placed body parts into a nice conceptual model.

So bring on those jokes: consider the spherical Jo!

Author: Joskates

Don't see me on the ice? I may be in the classroom or at the theater, or hanging out with my family and friends.

4 thoughts on “Consider the spherical skater

  1. Love this. My body lines are quite angular due to my old gymnastics training. I need to think of more spherical lines for fluidity. I will have to remember this the next time I am on the ice!


  2. Thanks, Eva. Angular works well for jumping, though! So you’ll have both the lines and the circles covered!


  3. I recently picked up a copy of a book from the 1908s– “Figure Skating with Carlo Fassi”. In the section devoted to compulsory figures his first commandment is to lean into the circle and imagine that you’re skating around the base of a cone–kinda spherical.


  4. Hey, I have that book too! I forgot about his cone idea, so thanks for reminding me. I will have to look at that section again. It’s really useful on brackets:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s