CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Vote in the Internet Baseball Awards for a chance at a free copy of Dollar Sign on the Muscle
Voting ends in 2 days and 16 hours

<< Previous Article
Baseball Prospectus Ne... (07/09)
<< Previous Column
Wezen-Ball: Scotty Bea... (06/21)
Next Column >>
Wezen-Ball: The 1930 C... (07/18)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Collateral Damage Dail... (07/10)

July 10, 2012


A Really, Really Fast Ball

by Larry Granillo

Contrary to some's (i.e., mine) beliefs, the baseball world did not pause these last two weeks while I went on vacation and navigated a move. It's a shocking thing to learn that one is not the center of the universe. That said, you can expect a few quick looks at some interesting goings-on from the last two weeks over the next couple of days. The first is a piece of brilliance making its way around the internet this morning from the genius minds of xkcd (who you might remember from "The Problem with Sabermetricians")...

Randall Munroe, the artist behind xkcd, applied his mathematical mind to the one question we've all wondered: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?

As you might imagine, the answer to the question is something much more fascinating than "It arrives in the catcher's mitt really, really fast":

The constant fusion at the front of the ball pushes back on it, slowing it down, as if the ball were a rocket flying tail-first while firing its engines. Unfortunately, the ball is going so fast that even the tremendous force from this ongoing thermonuclear explosion barely slows it down at all. It does, however, start to eat away at the surface, blasting tiny particulate fragments of the ball in all directions. These fragments are going so fast that when they hit air molecules, they trigger two or three more rounds of fusion.

After about 70 nanoseconds the ball arrives at home plate. The batter hasn't even seen the pitcher let go of the ball, since the light carrying that information arrives at about the same time the ball does. Collisions with the air have eaten the ball away almost completely, and it is now a bullet-shaped cloud of expanding plasma (mainly carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen) ramming into the air and triggering more fusion as it goes. The shell of x-rays hits the batter first, and a handful of nanoseconds later the debris cloud hits.

It goes on from there and is worth a read, even if you don't like math. Some really outlandish things happen at the extremes of physics which would make a baseball game quite interesting. The rule 6.08(b) interpretation is a nice touch.

For those who did read it (and are scientifically-minded), I have a question. All of the effects that Randall describes in his scenario seem to be based on the ball colliding with air molecules. What would happen if this "fastball" were tossed in a vacuum? Would we finally be able to see the near-lightspeed baseball game we've all been dreaming about since we were kids? If so, I know one person who might have a leg-up over the rest of us: Satoshi Furukawa.

Related Content:  The Artist

26 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Baseball Prospectus Ne... (07/09)
<< Previous Column
Wezen-Ball: Scotty Bea... (06/21)
Next Column >>
Wezen-Ball: The 1930 C... (07/18)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Collateral Damage Dail... (07/10)

Transaction Analysis: This Is 40
Fantasy Article Fantasy Categorical Breakdowns: The Landscap...
Fantasy Article Retrospective Player Valuation: Mixed League...
Rubbing Mud: Wartime Consigliere
Transaction Analysis: San Francisco's Bullpe...
Transaction Analysis: Hill Gets Rich, Finall...
2017 Prospects: Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Pro...

Premium Article Overthinking It: The Brief Wondrous Life of ...
Western Front: Trying One's Patience
Baseball ProGUESTus: Does the Hit and Run He...
Fantasy Article Value Picks: First, Third, and DH for 7/10/1...
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Shields' Plummeting Groundball...
Premium Article Collateral Damage Daily: Tuesday, July 10
What You Need to Know: Tuesday, July 10

2012-07-18 - Tater Trot Tracker: Trot Times for July 17
2012-07-17 - Tater Trot Tracker: Trot Times for July 16
2012-07-16 - Tater Trot Tracker: Billy Hamilton Breaks th...
2012-07-10 - Wezen-Ball: A Really, Really Fast Ball
2012-07-04 - Tater Trot Tracker: Hanley Ramirez Breaks th...
2012-06-27 - Tater Trot Tracker: Trot Times for June 26
2012-06-23 - Tater Trot Tracker: Trot Times for June 22

2012-07-23 - Wezen-Ball: Review: "Bottom of the Ninth: An...
2012-07-20 - Wezen-Ball: The 1,000-foot Baseball Drop
2012-07-18 - Wezen-Ball: The 1930 Cardinals Telegram Myst...
2012-07-10 - Wezen-Ball: A Really, Really Fast Ball
2012-06-21 - Wezen-Ball: Scotty Beams One Down
2012-06-20 - Wezen-Ball: A Surprising Magician
2012-06-15 - Wezen-Ball: Matt Cain, Peanuts & "How Did th...