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Frictionless sports

While discussing a game of tennis two of us were playing this morning, we got into talking about the backspin and topspin making it trickier to hit the ball. Then someone proposed the idea: Tennis played on a frictionless surface!

Okay, this means you can’t run or anything, so you need to surround the court with walls that you can push off. You need to time your push so that you slide to where the ball will be in time for you to hit it. And then of course when you hit the ball it changes your momentum, so you end up sliding in a different direction until you hit another wall and push off again. It could probably work.

Then one of us had to go the step further and imagine it in 3 dimensions. Basically, you have a prolate spheroidal court in zero gravity, with each player starting at one of the foci. That way the first serve is guaranteed to pass near the receiving player after one bounce on any surface, and the player can return it. By this stage, both players have gained momentum from hitting the ball and can start bouncing off walls. A player who can hit the ball so it bounces off two (or maybe three) walls before the other player can reach it wins the point.

Another variant scores the game by the players’ momentum. If you ever push off a wall or hit the ball such that you don’t have enough speed to reach another wall within, say, 10 seconds, you lose the point.

There are lots of other variants you can build on these concepts.

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