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Bodies in motion
When speed skaters race around a track, they depend on two laws of physics to help them win a medal. The first is Newton’s law of inertia, which states that a body in motion will retain its speed and direction of travel as long as there is no external force acting on it. For skaters, this means that inertia will keep them moving in a straight line until some external force curves their path. Newton’s law of reciprocal actions kicks in when skaters enter a turn by crossing their blades at an angle and leaning into the turn. The push from the skates generates an equal but opposite push back from the ice. The further skaters lean into the turn, the more powerful the push from their skates and the greater the force the ice produces to carry them through the turn. But as they lean into the track, their centre of gravity also shifts. If skaters lean too far, they lose their balance and end up sprawled on the ice as their competitors whiz by.