Science Small Plate: Special World Series Edition (November 1, 2013)

THE RED SOX WON THE WORLD SERIES!!!! (Yes, I’m from Boston.) In honor of which, today’s Science Small Plate is dedicated to the science of baseball.

And for that, I’m going to send you over to KQED and QUEST Science, who a few years ago put together a good high-level video overview of baseball biomechanics and physics. It’s a long video, but it’s worth the time. They also did a shorter one on the physics of the home run.

You might also want to read:

  • An article from Popular Mechanics on the biomechanics of the 100+ mph pitch: “[A]t its peak speed, an elite pitcher’s arm rotates at upward of 8500 degrees per second. If that single instant of speed could be maintained, then a pitcher’s arm would spin around 24 times in a second.”
  • Check out these lecture notes from a professor at the University of Texas about the physics of pitching, the effects of air drag on the ball, and what makes a curve ball curve.
  • We saw lots of broken bats during this World Series. Blame the current wood of choice, maple — as opposed to hickory (the old time favorite) or ash (a staple for the last 50-odd years) — which has a grain structure that promote shattering.
  • The Physics of Baseball, a site maintained by physics professor Alan Nathan at the University of Illinois that gets really comprehensive about knuckleballs, baseball aerodynamics, what happens when bat and ball connect, and more.
  • Or get your hands on the identically titled book by Robert Adair.
  • And if you want to get a little ridiculous, here’s what would happen if a pitcher threw a baseball at close to the speed of light. (Spoiler alert: Things go BOOM!!!)

I’m running out the door for the annual National Association of Science Writers meeting in Florida, so I apologize for throwing such a poor list together when there’s so much out there on how science and baseball mesh…I know I’m not doing it justice. But in the future, I’ll try to write some in-depth posts on pitching, hitting, and fielding.

Have a great weekend, and BOSTON STRONG!!!!!


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