Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Physics of Baseball

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the here-comes-the-science dept.

Education 366

beatleadam writes "After seeing Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitch a perfect game (coverage here), I searched Slashdot in the hopes of reading more about what the Slashdot readers thought of this feat of athleticism and science and to learn more about the physics of baseball (More information to be found here and here). As nothing was posted, I submit for your viewing pleasure a "course" in the Physics of Baseball and the subtle science that is pitching."

cancel ×

366 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Fuck you all (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204121)

I hate all of you.

Fuck you all.

Love Always,
News For Turds

Baseball happens in the real world... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204128)

Why should nerds care about this, even if it has physics?

Re:Baseball happens in the real world... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204174)


Indeed. The physical world runs on physics, that doesn't mean "Stuff that matters" should include how Ron Jeremy's ejaculate travels in a parabola.

Re:Baseball happens in the real world... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204311)

> Ron Jeremy's ejaculate travels in a parabola.

Remember that its only a partial parabola. Allowing something as valuable as The Hedgehogs wad to hit the floor is outside the budget of most porn flicks.

I can't believe I'm posting this to Slashdot.

Re:Baseball happens in the real world... (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204198)

Some "nerds" have interests other than the Physics of Star Wars and the possibility that nanobacteria exists. Nevermind the fact that we might need to know the physics of women.

Shocker, I know.

Re:Baseball happens in the real world... (2, Funny)

hopemafia (155867) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204406)

For the physics of women click here [wikipedia.org]

Re:Baseball happens in the real world... (5, Insightful)

strictnein (318940) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204348)

Baseball is the "geekiest" of the 4 major (US) sports. The statistics tracked in baseball dwarf any other sport. Stat analysis is a integral part of baseball.

What other sport do you have stats like: Batting average with runners in scoring position, two outs, late innings, versus a right handed pitcher.

Baseball stats scream "geek".

duh (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204134)

As nothing was posted,

Nothing was posted? HINT: Maybe because no one cares about illiterate retards hitting a ball with a piece of lumber... Sports are not important, they are a diversion.

Which? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204146)

Which link is most pertinent? Must I follow them all? Must I RATFA?

Re:Which? (2, Funny)

DR SoB (749180) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204208)

You lazy llama, there are only 12 links in this 1 paragraph article! It helps lessen the /. effect if it's balanced across all those links!!

Re:Which? (1)

Tattva (53901) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204236)

Well, I'm also not interested in going down a bunch of ratholes, he links to mlb, for heavens sake.

Re:Which? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204306)

Well, I'm personally the most grateful for his link to a google search for "physics of baseball". That's something that I really couldn't have done myself, if it mattered as a pair of dingo's kidneys to me.

Re:Which? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204533)

Baseball is so fucking retarded. I mean, professional and collegiate sports are idiotic to begin with, but baseball is especially so. Baseball fans are probably the same dumbasses who get a stiffy over a fucking pack of Magick cards and spend the summer sitting on the port drinking lemonade all day slapping bugs off their necks and arms and saying things like "over yonder" and "y'all".

Who is the pitcher? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204147)

And who is the catcher in the /. crew? Answers in a postcard please.

baseball (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204157)

It's still baseball though, right? Still boring...

Curt? (3, Funny)

SuperChuck69 (702300) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204166)

Patiently awaiting Curt Schilling's comment... ;)

Curt Quotes (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204405)

From the Sports Illustrated article:
Former teammate Curt Schilling, who teamed with Johnson to lead the Diamondbacks to the World Series championship in 2001, watched the final two innings on a television at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Schilling now plays for the Boston Red Sox, who had a game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

"Guys that play the game at that level ... do things other people don't dream of doing," Schilling said. "They push themselves. That's what he's done."

Johnson is back on his game after enduring an injury plagued, 6-8 season in 2003.

"He's been pitching great," Schilling said. "I just want to find all those people that were talking about the end of his career last winter."

Re:Curt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204422)

Sorry, too busy playing Everquest.

Curt.

Forget baseball. (0, Troll)

DR SoB (749180) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204170)

It's boring as physics 101 is..

Instead look at the physics of HOCKEY! Now there is something interesting.. A 250lbs player moving on a surface at 45km/h with almost 0 friction, hitting another 220lbs player into the boards traveling in the opposite direction, cause X joules of energy to be transferred to the glass.. :D

Re:Forget baseball. (0, Redundant)

Patik (584959) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204189)

If it were zero friction the puck would never stop moving and players would have to crash into the wall to stop.

Re:Forget baseball. (0, Troll)

DR SoB (749180) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204241)

Well thanks for the insight professor.. I guess you skipped English class though, note the word "almost".. And you're wrong anyways, I was only talking about surface friction in that sentence, there are other types, such as air friction..

Oh and BTW: The players crash into the wall all the time due to the LOW surface friction.. Man your 1 sentence is wrong on so many levels it's funny..

Re:Forget baseball. (1)

Enigma_Man (756516) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204260)

Well... he said almost 0 friction. But if it were 0 friction, wouldn't the players just slide right on through the ice?

-Jesse

in Calgary last night (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204209)

When I saw those women flashing to celebrate the Flames... I pitched a tent.

Re:Forget baseball. (5, Informative)

mike_mgo (589966) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204229)

You might be interested then in The Physics of Hockey by Alain Hache. I bought it last year and found it interesting. he covers the basics from skating and stopping, to slapshots, chechs and saves. I think he even covered some of the thermo for making an ice rink.

Re:Forget baseball. (1, Funny)

espo812 (261758) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204481)

he covers the basics from skating and stopping, to slapshots,
chechs and saves.
Would that be Czechs (nationality of hockey players) or checks (the next best thing to fights)?

Re:Forget baseball. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204278)

What the fuck is 'lbs'?

Re:Forget baseball. (1)

DR SoB (749180) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204442)

Pounds. (You're not American are you? Me neither!)

Re:Forget baseball. (4, Interesting)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204365)

The most interesting physics phenomenon in hockey has got to be the slapshot. Watch one in slow motion, and you'll see the shooter strike the ice with the blade of his stick several inches before the puck. As the motion continues, the stick bends backwards, building up tension that is released on the follow-through. Together with a wrist-roll that keeps the blade in contact with the puck for a longer period of time, you get a tremendous transfer of energy that launches a 100-mph whirling dervish at the net. The most amazing thing is the aim that top snipers achieve while doing all this.

Man, you are so behind the times.. (1, Offtopic)

rylin (688457) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204176)

People don't care about your old-style sports like baseball or basketball..
We want BASEketball [imdb.com] ! :)

Re:Man, you are so behind the times.. (2, Funny)

krumms (613921) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204332)

Is it just me, or are irrelevant links to IMDB the New Slashdot Thing - right up there with Beowulf clusters and insensitive clods?

Or has the GNAA changed its focus from poo coated women to just plain ol' shitty movies?

Re:Man, you are so behind the times.. (1)

no reason to be here (218628) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204499)

Or has the GNAA changed its focus from poo coated women to just plain ol' shitty movies?

why would the GNAA be interested in women?

(It's funny. Laugh.)

ANLTC (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204182)

Alan Nathan Loves the Cock!

One question (2, Funny)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204187)

Who's on first?

Re:One question (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204245)

Judge Wapner although he only plays in afternoon games.

Re:One question (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204263)

Yes.

Re:One question (2, Funny)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204296)

That comment should be modded "informative" ;-)

Physics? (1)

sv25 (773540) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204193)

Back in the day, we just threw/hit the ball and hoped for the best!

oh great (3, Funny)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204202)

Now I can read how they do something I will be never be able to do. Maybe I can impress chicks with teh knowledge of this. Oh, wait...

Offtopic!!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204205)

This whole article should be modded Offtopic!
This is /. How many people play baseball, let's see a show of hands?
How many people care enough about the physics of baseball to follow all those links?

It's times like these that I wish I could moderate whole articles....

A perfect game? (-1, Flamebait)

LineGrunt (133002) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204206)

Let's see that would be...

3 pitches per batter times 3 batters per inning per 9 innings.

That's 81 pitches, right???

-LG
"I don't think that word means what you think it means." Indigo Montoya

Re:A perfect game? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204244)

Technically, it would be 27 pitches. 3 batters per inning, 1 pitch per batter. So long as each person swings at the first pitch, and either pops up or grounds out.

Re:A perfect game? (4, Informative)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204249)

Perfect game means no one reached base. You could actually pitch a perfect game in 27 pitches, all first pitch hits. This is why pitch count doesn't matter.

Re:A perfect game? (2, Insightful)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204429)

> Perfect game means no one reached base. You could actually pitch a perfect game in 27 pitches, all first pitch hits.

Quite right. And, you could also have a non-perfect game known as "facing the minimum" with 27 pitches. On the first pitch to a batter, the ball hits the batter, and he gets first base. Next pitch is grounded into a double play. This is also a no hitter. You could also face the minimum throwing 27 pitches without it being a no hitter if one or more first pitches are hit for singles followed by first pitch double plays.

Imagine being the 27th batter. Do you swing at the first pitch no matter what?

Re:A perfect game? (1)

Xoder (664531) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204284)

Not necessarily. Each batter could hit the first pitch and have it caught by a fielder. Then there would be 27 pitches. And a perfect game can have "balls" thrown, as long as no one reaches base.

IOW, "perfect game" tells you nothing about the number of pitches thrown.

Re:A perfect game? (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204378)

Is there a name for 27k? Has anyone ever thrown one (even if someone reached base).

nope (1)

therealcaf (697590) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204411)

Most Strike-Outs in a regular 9-inning game is 20, shared by Roger Clemens, for Boston (04/29/1986 and 09/18/1996) and Kerry Wood, for Chicago(05/06/1998) http://baseball-almanac.com/recbooks/rb_strik.shtm l

Re:A perfect game? (1)

joggle (594025) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204478)

IOW, "perfect game" tells you nothing about the number of pitches thrown.

Technically, it tells you that the same pitcher pitched the entire game, so he must have pitched at least 27 times (not that that tells you much).

Re:A perfect game? (3, Interesting)

kalidasa (577403) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204301)

Nope. That would be a sort of Sidd Finch Zen ultra-perfect game. In The Curious Case of Sidd Finch, the title character, an American brought up on a Buddhist monastery who pitches 130 mph fast balls, pitches one game: 80 strikes. He walks off the mound before throwing the last strike to complete the game, as a kind of Zen gesture.

Re:A perfect game? (0)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204391)

the title character, an American brought up on a Buddhist monastery who pitches 130 mph fast balls
Actually Hayden "Sidd" Finch is British born, and throws at 168 mph.

Re:A perfect game? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204526)

Way to screw up a perfect Zen game! A pitch isn't legal unless the pitcher is on the mound.

How about... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204207)

discussing the ECONOMICS of baseball? A breif list of the salaries of the overweight, corn-fed, ball-chuckers oughtta be interesting.

Re:How about... (2, Informative)

siffring (716738) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204415)

I know that was a joke, but if you're really interested, there is a pretty good book discussing the economics of baseball: Moneyball [amazon.com] by Michael Lewis

Laws of baseball physics (5, Funny)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204210)

Don't forget these:

"If you build it, he will come".

The law by which Red Sox and Cubs are repelled by the World Series and especially by the prospect of each other's presence in it.

The Goat Rule

The Curse of the Bambino

Or, Buy The Book (1)

USAPatriot (730422) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204211)

The Physics of Baseball, by Robert Adair [amazon.com] contains more information about the physics of baseball than you will ever want to know.

Besides, the Randy Johnson did has little to do with physics, and more to do with skill and athleticsm, especially for a 40 year old pitcher.

Eh ? (-1, Flamebait)

hoofie (201045) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204212)

What spanner put this on on Slashdot ?

Is it news for nerds ? no.
Is it stuff that matters ? no.

What next ? Links to a detailed treatise on the physics of having a piss ?

Re:Eh ? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204350)

I think the mods had too much caffeine today... marking most everyone here either a Troll or a Flamebait

Re:Eh ? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204370)

Crap!!! I just undid all the good moderation by me by posting the above... BAH!!!

You mean *half* the physics of baseball (3, Funny)

Patik (584959) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204218)

Since it was a perfect game, it was missing the trajectory (batting) half.

Re:You mean *half* the physics of baseball (4, Informative)

no soup for you (607826) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204469)

... was missing the trajectory (batting) half.

Actually, there was a lot of trajectory -- in perfect games the fielders are as much to congratulate as the pitcher. There are 27 outs in a game if you pitch the 9th inning. He did not have 27 strike outs; there was a majority of outs made by the batters hitting the ball

Extra reading (3, Informative)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204219)

Try Robert Adair's seminal "The Physics Of Baseball". A really good read (and it got him appointed "Physicist to the National League") Oh and someone who can write that [oddball-mall.com]
Air pushed aside by the curve on top has to move fast to meet up with the air moving along the bottom
has no business teaching physics to anyone? Why would the air race to meet up with its previous neighbour at the other side. Do they have a hot date, or something.

Re:Extra reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204474)

The air has to meet on the othere side it's Bernoli's Principle. How do you think airplanes work??? The air on the top of the wing has to move faster to meet the air on the bottom. This creates a low pressure above the wing that creats lift.

Re:Extra reading (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204485)

I've seen that race used to describe how airplane wings work too. Followed by: the faster air on the top surface produces a lower pressure (bernouli) than the slower air on the bottom - this difference produces lift. Never mind that air is deflected downward and hence there is an equal and opposite force on the wing.

I've also seen physics teachers try to explain curve balls this way: The relative air-speed on the top and bottom (with back spin) are different and this causes a pressure difference which causes a perpendicular force on the ball causing it to curve (climb). The problem there is that the claimed force would cause a curve in the opposite direction from what actually happens - i.e. backspin actually causes the ball to climb. but the airspeed on top is lower which should produce higher pressure than on the bottom.

It's rare to see these explained correctly.

Red Sox Fan (3, Interesting)

_PimpDaddy7_ (415866) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204227)

Ask any Red Sox fan about baseball, they will tell you laws of physics do not apply as the Bambino curse is the ONLY law in the land of Boston Red Sox :)

As a sidenote, watch the movie Still We Believe for an inside view of how Boston fans related to the Boston Red Sox.

And the only people who can really relate to us are Chicago Cubs fans.

Re:Red Sox Fan (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204425)

Ask any Red Sox fan about baseball, they will tell you laws of physics do not apply as the Bambino curse is the ONLY law in the land of Boston Red Sox :)

Hey now, as a disgruntled/disillusioned Mets fan (the first rule of being a Mets or Red Sox fan is that you hate the Yankees) I was rooting for you guys (and pissing a lot of people off at the local sports bar) during the ALCS. If I had an American League team it would probably be the Sox. I share some of your heartbreak.

Sorry about 1986 though.

Re:Red Sox Fan (1)

therealcaf (697590) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204491)

Sorry about 1986 though.
haha, thanks. consider yourself forgiven.

Re:Red Sox Fan (1)

therealcaf (697590) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204460)

Although, the Cubs may have it worse then us. We have atleast been to the world series.

Baseball (-1, Flamebait)

dumeinst (664891) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204235)

God, baseball. The most mind-numbing sport in the world.

Who cares if someone managed to throw a ball perfectly for 9 innings. Really

Re:Baseball (4, Funny)

Mateito (746185) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204285)

> God, baseball. The most mind-numbing sport in the world.

You must come from a part of the world where they don't have Cricket.

(Note to Mods. I used to like Cricket, then the SCG banned full strength beer and installed seats in Bay 13. What were they thinking?)

Re:Baseball (1)

dumeinst (664891) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204323)

Yes, true, I am. Note the similarities however

Accelerating (2, Interesting)

WhatsAProGingrass (726851) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204239)

In one of the many links.
"The ball is still traveling along an almost straight line, and it may even still be accelerating."

Now I understand that when a ball slows down, its accelerating in a negative direction (Depending on your view I guess). But i'm pretty sure they are talking about the ball going faster and faster as it travels. With my limitied knowledge of physics, I don't see how a ball can just accelerate with no force applied to it.

Re:Accelerating (4, Informative)

calebb (685461) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204303)

For an object to accelerate, it's 'speed' does not need to change... only it's velocity needs to change! Velocity is a vector quantity, so it has both a direction and a rate of motion attached to it.

Therefore, an object can be moving at a constant speed, but as long as it's 'direction' is changing, it is accelerating.

So a satellite that's orbiting the earth at a constant speed, is constantly accelerating since it's direction is constantly changing.

Caleb

Re:Accelerating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204512)

while what you posted is absolutely correct, i don't think that's what's meant in the original sentence.

when someone in not so technical area talks about acceleration, it's almost universally meant to say speed is increasing. it's not precise and it's not correct, but it's the way the word is commonly used.

in the original sentence, i think the tone is such that the author meant to suggest that the speed is increasing. which, of course, is unphysical as you and others have pointed out.

Re:Accelerating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204367)

With my limitied knowledge of physics, I don't see how a ball can just accelerate with no force applied to it.
Gravity. If I toss a rock slowly and horizontally, its speed will be increasing all the time until it hits the ground.

Knuckleballers (5, Informative)

kalidasa (577403) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204253)

Less on the physics than the effects of that physics, from the New Yorker [newyorker.com] last week; here's a general audience article on knuckleball physics [oddball-mall.com] , an interview with Robert K. Adair [ajprint.net] , and finally, another physicist, Joel Hollander [cooper.edu] , who works on baseball: if you look at the master's theses list, you'll see one on the physics of pitching.

Re:Knuckleballers (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204339)

Nice Adair article. I like the fact his notional player plays for the Mammoths, presumably with Henry 'Author' Wiggen, 'Sad' Sam Yale, the late Bruce Pearson et al.

a book (2, Informative)

elrod (21611) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204258)

Robert K. Adair's book "The Physics of Baseball" is a good source of information on this. Both the physics-geek and physics-neophyte can find interesting tidbits in it.

Baseball and nerds? (1)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204259)

Has anyone else here read the old "Brains Benton" [townofautumn.com] series of juvenile mysteries? Sort of like "Hardy Boys" and "The 3 Investigators", but vastly superior to the former. Brains Benton himself is a prototype stereotypical nerd genius (in a pre-computer era), except that he is good at baseball.

How to catch a fly ball (4, Informative)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204267)

I read a newspaper article once about how outfielders catch fly-balls. Basically, the ball follows an arc in the air. It's parabolic (which is fairly obvious). The way a fielder judges how far or back they need to be to catch the ball is what is interesting. The fielder will move so the ball will always appear to stay in one spot (and just get larger), even while it is on its descent. As long as this apparent motion is kept, the ball should go right into the glove. If the ball appears to move down, the fielder must move forward. If the ball appears to move up, then the fielder needs to go back. If the fielder sees any curve to the path, then he/she needs to move to the sides to "straighten" out the path. A really interesting read, wish I could find a URL w/ it.

Re:How to catch a fly ball (5, Informative)

Jonny Royale (62364) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204377)

http://www.public.asu.edu/~mmcbeath/mcbeath.resear ch/CatchFly/CatchFly.html

or

http://www.maa.org/mathland/mathtrek_10_14_02.ht ml

Re:How to catch a fly ball (1)

Kaliken (671206) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204476)

as I have taken this from prior experience this isn't quite complete as of the the most difficult balls to judge are the ones hit right to you. The reason for this is that lack of ability to determine the parabolic arc and the approximate location to position oneself. This is why sometimes you see a pro player take a step in only to realize that the ball will sail over his head. The ability to see the arc in perspctive is huge in the determining where the ball will land.

Re:How to catch a fly ball (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204483)

So basically: Keep your eye on the ball and stick that huge glove in the way. It's not rocket science.

Catching a harder, heavier ball, from a larger distance using your bare hands is far more impressive. Cricket is what I'm talking about.

I know I always sound like a troll but it's the mods that need kicking most of the time.

Re:How to catch a fly ball (1)

That's Unpossible! (722232) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204497)

Allow me to sum up:

"Place yourself under the ball."

Cameron judges balls differently (3, Interesting)

sabernar (245306) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204513)

Mike Cameron on the Mets does it differently. He's trained himself since a very early age to see the ball off the bat and then estimate where it will land. He then runs as fast as he can to that spot, and lo and behold the ball is there for him. He doesn't actually watch the ball in flight, but he knows where it will land quicker than other outfielders. That's why he's far and away the best centerfielder (and outfielder in general) in baseball.

Re:How to catch a fly ball (1)

davidescott (778917) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204517)

Original article in science: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd= Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=7725104&dopt=Abstract However google for "catching a fly ball" brings up an explanation as the first listing. Can't say it is the best explanation. I think the article you are refering to was either in the Times and therefore unavailable or was in SciAm although I can't find it. An ABC article has more to say http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/moments/s42501.ht m Practically everybody has thrown and caught some kind of a ball. Balls are essential to so many sports - but the weird thing is, we still don't understand exactly how we catch a ball. Once a ball has been launched, any physicist can solve the equations that will predict exactly where the ball will land. But in a game of baseball, once we hear the crack of the ball on the bat, we don't sit down and start solving a few differential equations - no, we immediately start moving on a path that takes us to where the ball will land. How do we do it? Well, according to one of the scientists who has tried to solve this deceptively-simple problem, catching a ball involves "physics, engineering control theory, physiology, kinaesthesiology, ethology, perception, and the study of expertise" - and I reckon the list could go on longer. Scientists have been trying to solve this problem for a long time. Some of them have been looking to the World of Nature for solutions. For example, the teleost fish catches its dinner by keeping constant the angle between its direction of travel, and its dinner. This method is actually used in air-to-air missiles, but works only when the chaser can move quite a bit faster that its target. The housefly is a bit more sophisticated. It actually varies the angle between its direction of travel and its target according to how fast it's going, and how sharp a curve it's flying through. But getting back to humans catching a ball, back in 1968, Seville Chapman from the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory Inc. in Buffalo, New York proposed his particular theory. He claimed that somebody trying to catch a ball would move in such a way that the image of the ball on their retina would appear to go straight up, and at a constant rate. The trouble with this theory is that in real life, somebody trying to catch a ball will move a few steps off to one side, to get a slightly side-on view of the ball. Scientists didn't try too hard to solve this problem, because even if they didn't really understand how we catch a ball, sportspeople still caught balls perfectly well. But in the early 1990s, NASA realised that they didn't know what was really going on when an astronaut tried to dock the multi-billion dollar Space Shuttle onto a satellite or Space Station. So NASA funded two psychologists from Kent State University in Ohio, Michael McBeath and Dennis Shaffer, and Mary Kaiser from NASA's Ames Research Center in California to look into this little problem - but from the angle of trying to catch a ball. The maths is pretty complicated, but in plain English, they reckoned that the catcher would run in a curving path, trying to keep the "apparent" path of the ball, a straight line. They published their report in 1995, and soon, lots of other scientists started disagreeing with them. For example, Robert K. Adair from the Physics Department at Yale University pointed out that their strategy gave the catcher an infinite number of solutions - which was probably more than the catcher needed. Lewis A. Chodosh from the Department of Molecular and Cellular Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center and the Jansport HBs Baseball Club pointed out that many expert catchers in baseball simply didn't follow the mathematical strategy proposed by the NASA-funded scientists. Soon after, Nicholas Hatsopoulos from the Biology Division at the California Institute of Technology at Pasadena, threw some different maths into the mix. He worked out that a locust in a swarm avoided collisions by multiplying angular acceleration, and the inverse exponential function of the angular size of the target - clever little locust. A little bit later, another two psychologists, Peter McLeod from Oxford University and Zoltan Dienes from Sussex University, came up with a different slant on the Ball Catching Problem. They claimed that the catcher would constantly change their speed, so that their upward angle of gaze would stay constant. All these different theories tell me one thing - we still don't understand exactly how we catch a ball. So while the physicists fumble with the figures, and the mathematicians get caught out, we all just keep our eye on the ball. Leave it to me, It's mine, it's mine, I got it..... Bugger!

Author of article is an id10t. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204292)

When an infielder catches a hard-hit line drive, he or she does it automatically. The ball is still traveling along an almost straight line, and it may even still be accelerating.

The author can rattle off F=ma, but clearly does not have a good understanding. How can the ball be accelerating when it reaches the infielder unless:

*There is still a force accelerating the ball
*The ball is losing mass

Either the author is presuming that:

*The hitter has one long bat and is contacting the ball in front of the infielder's face
*The infielder is standing in front of the batter's box
*The shell of the ball is coming off and is somehow propelling itself in a direction opposite to that of the motion of the ball.

Perhaps the author meant acceleration in the sense of deceleration, but the context of the article implies otherwise. IMAO, author is an id10ta.

Re:Author of article is an id10t. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204360)

Thought about it and the ball could be accelerating as a curve ball accelerates off of its linear trajectory.

Still, author is an id10t.

Science of link naming (1)

Looke (260398) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204298)

What about the subtle science of proper link naming [w3.org] ? (With links like those in the article, the box of "related links" isn't really helpful...)

Re:Science of link naming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204364)

Thank god I'm not the only one. I saw all those links, knew I didn't care to read all of the articles and chose not to read any of them due to my inability to find the one most interesting.

Baseball is a SPORT. This is /. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204337)

Uhh, yeah, great, but baseball is a sport. This is Slashdot. Am I the only one who sees the problem here?

Wait there is an actual book! (2)

Kaliken (671206) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204374)

there is an book called the Physics of Baseball written by Robert Adair that wonderfully talks about the things you are always have wondered. some things such as how does a curveball curve. the difference between pitches. Its a great read and since I still play baseball its obviously holds interest to me. plus for the physics geek it actually gets into some of the areodynamic effects on the ball and the stitching. very cool!

This is great... (4, Funny)

Mz6 (741941) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204381)

A definition of what "baseball" is... [thefreedictionary.com]

"baseball, baseball game, ball - a ball game played with a bat and ball between two teams of 9 players; teams take turns at bat trying to score run; "he played baseball in high school"; "there was a baseball game on every empy lot"; "there was a desire for National League ball in the area"; "play ball!"

Ok.. If you don't know what baseball is, raise your hand and Tommy will come over and hit you on the head with a tackhammer because you are a RETARD! [imdb.com]

Re:This is great... (1)

yarisbandit (608829) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204457)

I'm from europe you insensitive clod!

Ah crap, I made an insensitive clod joke. I'll get me coat...

Re:This is great... (1)

yarisbandit (608829) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204496)

"play ball!"

Here in good aul Eireann, that passes as the last line of our national anthem ;)

physics of martial arts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204408)

Reminds me of several other physics of martial arts articles I've read, particularly this one on Aikido [fightingarts.com] .

Chemistry Study (1)

baldcamel (754810) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204418)

From what I read about the lax drug testing in US sports maybe a chemical analysis of the player would be more interest?

Baseball's BARELY a sport (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204435)

Any game in which fatasses can lumber around the field, sleep DURING the game while not playing, and smoke heaters in their off-time is hardly a sport.

You came to /. looking for what? (2, Funny)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204470)

{funny = on}
I'm sorry did I miss something, you searched /. for sports information? Did you forget we are nerds not nuts(as in sports nut). Is there a News for Nuts site, I don't know and quite frankly I don't care.

Remember we are nerds we Hate:

Outside - Unless we are looking at our older sisters best friend sitting by the pool.

Sports - Unless it includes something with the word Bot in the little.

Athletic triumphs - Unless is the college cheerleading championship on ESPN

{funny = off}

The pitcher is not alone (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9204494)

A perfect game or a no hitter is great for a pitcher, but what people fail to realize is that for the pitcher to do either of those, requires all of his teammates help as well. How many pitches were hit only to be caught for the out, or thrown to first for the out? To me, a perfect game for a pitcher would be to strike out every player he pitched too.
The pitcher gets too much praise for when most of the work is actually done by his teammates.

It's simple really (1)

hotspur_fan (210395) | more than 10 years ago | (#9204504)

From Tim Keown of ESPN [go.com] : When high-brow attempts middle-brow, hilarity ensues: As just part of what you can learn by reading the sports stories in The New Yorker, there's this description of a knuckleball from Robert K. Adair, professor emeritus at Yale and the author of "The Physics of Baseball" -- "To understand how a knuckleball works, it helps to have a basic familiarity with Bernoulli's principle, the Magnus effect, and the Prandtl boundary-layer theory, for a start."
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?