For those of you not sure what resolution to commit to this year, here’s a suggestion: Improve your stone skimming. To help you out, this month’s Nature (subscription required for full text) carries a scientific analysis by three French academics of the optimum angle at which the stone should hit the water:
Following earlier attempts 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.
So now you know. Apparently the record is 38 bounces, set by one J. Coleman-McGhee in 1992. Good luck, and have a happy 2004.