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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?

Answer: Boom.

Gamingboy Posted: July 10, 2012 at 09:16 AM | 56 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: fantasy baseball, physics

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: July 10, 2012 at 10:41 AM (#4178256)
I have to strongly disagree with the author's conclusion. Assuming the batter "tried to hit" the pitch he would be swinging and thus could not be ruled to have been hit by the pitch. It would probably be ruled a foul ball.*

* - Angel Hernandez would call it ball one.
   2. The Long Arm of Rudy Law Posted: July 10, 2012 at 10:51 AM (#4178262)
If you throw 0.9c with no movement and no good off-speed pitches, major league hitters are going to catch up with it.
   3. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 10, 2012 at 10:53 AM (#4178265)
Man, that pitcher's ballclub had better hope that the courts classify that mushroom cloud as an Act of God, or else they're going to have a lot of lawsuits from disgruntled widows and widowers on their hands.
   4. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: July 10, 2012 at 10:59 AM (#4178271)
Rickey! scoffs.

Ain't got no tail.
   5. Dave Spiwak Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:03 AM (#4178282)
At that speed, even if you just got a piece of it you still might end up with a single-larity.
   6. Stevis Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:08 AM (#4178287)
Jose, dead ball strike, actually.

And, dead batter and everyone else.
   7. Loren F. Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:10 AM (#4178291)
Fans would be rooting for a different Albert.
   8. TomH Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:11 AM (#4178295)
Oppenheimer saw it coming and asked Chuck Norris to pich-hit for him. Chuck watches it for ball one.

& kudos to #5
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:13 AM (#4178303)
Matt Wieters has converted to pitching?
   10. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:25 AM (#4178320)
The pitcher is obviously "Nuke" LaLoosh.

Assuming the batter "tried to hit" the pitch he would be swinging and thus could not be ruled to have been hit by the pitch. It would probably be ruled a foul ball.*
Nope. He may have intended to try to hit the ball, but he doesn't have time to make any physical attempt.
   11. DA Baracus Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:31 AM (#4178330)
The ball is going so fast that everything else is practically stationary.


I'd bunt.
   12. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:31 AM (#4178332)
Everything within roughly a mile of the park is leveled, and a firestorm engulfs the surrounding city. The baseball diamond is now a sizable crater, centered a few hundred feet behind the former location of the backstop.

A careful reading of official Major League Baseball Rule 6.08(b) suggests that in this situation, the batter would be considered "hit by pitch", and would be eligible to advance to first base.


That's an awesome ending. I bet that the aftermath would think that it was some type of terrorist attack given then location of the crater.
   13. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:38 AM (#4178346)
What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?
I'd miss. I can barely get around on 70 MPH heat.
   14. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:38 AM (#4178347)
Everything within roughly a mile of the park is leveled, and a firestorm engulfs the surrounding city. The baseball diamond is now a sizable crater, centered a few hundred feet behind the former location of the backstop.
The A's now have a new plan for getting out of the Coliseum.
   15. Gamingboy Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:39 AM (#4178348)
I'm wondering what the fastest a ball could be thrown/shot without it causing a doomsday scenario....
   16. Joey B. "disrespects the A" Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:43 AM (#4178353)
If Henry Rodriguez was the one throwing the ball, it would end up going back in the other direction about two parsecs.
   17. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:50 AM (#4178375)
Would't you just keep taking pitches until the other team ran out of catchers?
   18. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: July 10, 2012 at 12:56 PM (#4178507)
(Ken) Schrom-inger's Pitch: the pitch is simultaneously a strike and a ball.
   19. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: July 10, 2012 at 01:10 PM (#4178531)
When it reaches the batter, the center of the cloud is still moving at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light. It hits the bat first, but then the batter, plate, and catcher are all scooped up and carried backward through the backstop as they disintegrate.


I have to disagree with the conclusion of hit by pitch then. Sounds like a foul ball to me.
   20. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: July 10, 2012 at 01:15 PM (#4178539)
The refraction of light is observed differently by a person with just one eye. This phenomenon is known as the Freddy Schuman resonance.
   21. Swedish Chef Posted: July 10, 2012 at 01:17 PM (#4178545)
I doubt the superheated plasma that crosses the plate would count as the ball. So I'd say it would be a WP. If the batter disintegrates after 70 nanoseconds, it's going to be a checked swing.
   22. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: July 10, 2012 at 01:22 PM (#4178555)
I doubt the superheated plasma that crosses the plate would count as the ball. So I'd say it would be a WP.
Or maybe a balk? If a pitcher goes through a full motion but doesn't release the ball (only situation I can think of where a ball doesn't reach the plate), that's a balk isn't it?
   23. BDC Posted: July 10, 2012 at 01:28 PM (#4178567)
My first thought was, who's the batter? Superman, Gandalf, Yoda, Matt Wieters?
   24. chemdoc Posted: July 10, 2012 at 01:42 PM (#4178585)
So what I get from this is that we don't want Verlander to let loose with his top speed stuff tonight...
   25. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: July 10, 2012 at 02:29 PM (#4178670)
This article completely ignores the effect of Lorentz transformation which would make the ball appear to lengthen as it approaches the speed of light. The derivation is left as an exercise to the reader, as I did my time in college physics, thank you very much.
   26. GuyMcGuffin Posted: July 10, 2012 at 02:31 PM (#4178675)
If you throw 0.9c with no movement and no good off-speed pitches, major league hitters are going to catch up with it.


"A major league hitter can turnaround a bolt of lightning if he knows it's coming."

Of course, a lightning bolt is only 224,000 mph...

   27. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: July 10, 2012 at 03:32 PM (#4178795)
Of course, a lightning bolt is only 224,000 mph...
That's the speed in km, actually. Don't ask me why I know that.
   28. aleskel Posted: July 10, 2012 at 03:50 PM (#4178815)
This article completely ignores the effect of Lorentz transformation which would make the ball appear to lengthen as it approaches the speed of light.

Are you sure you don't mean the Picard Maneuver?
   29. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: July 10, 2012 at 05:02 PM (#4178872)
Would the Lorentz transformation matter given that the human brain can't process anything moving that fast and thus the batter would merely see the pitcher releasing the ball before being obliterated?
   30. Greg Franklin Posted: July 10, 2012 at 05:17 PM (#4178888)
I'm wondering what the fastest a ball could be thrown/shot without it causing a doomsday scenario....

Yeah, physicists and the general public agree that 0.9c is probably not a good experience for the athletes or the spectators. How far down from 0.9c does this pitch need to get before we get a non-mushroom cloud, non-plasmised air result?
   31. mchengcit Posted: July 10, 2012 at 06:05 PM (#4178936)
How far down from 0.9c does this pitch need to get before we get a non-mushroom cloud, non-plasmised air result?


The energy barrier for hydrogen fusion is about 100,000 electron Volts. The required velocity to attain sufficient kinetic energy to get over this barrier is about 1% of the speed of light.
   32. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: July 10, 2012 at 06:14 PM (#4178944)
The radar gun would say it was going 92% the speed of light?
   33. Gamingboy Posted: July 10, 2012 at 06:25 PM (#4178958)
The radar gun would say it was going 92% the speed of light?


Okay, that's it. You win.

The energy barrier for hydrogen fusion is about 100,000 electron Volts. The required velocity to attain sufficient kinetic energy to get over this barrier is about 1% of the speed of light.


That's still a not-too-shabby 6,707,000 MPH.
   34. Srul Itza Posted: July 10, 2012 at 06:37 PM (#4178970)
the air molecules in front of this ball don’t have time to be jostled out of the way. The ball smacks into them hard that the atoms in the air molecules actually fuse with the atoms in the ball’s surface. Each collision releases a burst of gamma rays and scattered particles.


Hulk SMASH puny baseball.
   35. Willie Mayspedester Posted: July 10, 2012 at 07:05 PM (#4178997)
Wouldn't your fingers break from applying so much pressure to the ball coming out of your hand? Alfonseca might be able to manage it I guess.
   36. Jose Canusee Posted: July 10, 2012 at 08:00 PM (#4179061)
All those air molecules would not be there at Coors. Besides, as the ball approaches the speed of light, doesn't its mass also increase? So after the Hulk takes to ball off his elbow and the umpire rules he made no effort to get out of the way, Dr. Banner explains that the gravitational force prevented him from doing so.
   37. depletion Posted: July 10, 2012 at 08:07 PM (#4179075)
The energy barrier for hydrogen fusion is about 100,000 electron Volts. The required velocity to attain sufficient kinetic energy to get over this barrier is about 1% of the speed of light.

I thought it was 100 keV or so for DT fusion, not HH? Hmmm. The photons resulting from the ball and the pitcher's arm would lose most of their energy to pair production. I'm not sure about the near field, but, yeah, lots of xrays at 100's of meters.

I get 1.7 e+16 joules kinetic energy on my Excel spreadsheet. Comparable to a 4 MT nuclear blast.
   38. Ron J Posted: July 10, 2012 at 09:29 PM (#4179331)
#37 in particular (plenty of other honorable mentions) is why I love this site.
   39. rlc Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:00 PM (#4179697)
Comparable to a 4 MT nuclear blast.


The most important thing for a pitcher is first strike capability.
   40. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:31 PM (#4179784)
The energy barrier for hydrogen fusion is about 100,000 electron Volts. The required velocity to attain sufficient kinetic energy to get over this barrier is about 1% of the speed of light.

I thought it was 100 keV or so for DT fusion, not HH? Hmmm. The photons resulting from the ball and the pitcher's arm would lose most of their energy to pair production. I'm not sure about the near field, but, yeah, lots of xrays at 100's of meters.

I get 1.7 e+16 joules kinetic energy on my Excel spreadsheet. Comparable to a 4 MT nuclear blast.


That first post from #31 was impressive enough. The fact that #37 even had the temerity to post that second quote above is why neophytes like myself come to this site.
   41. Morty Causa Posted: July 10, 2012 at 11:37 PM (#4179789)
I'd bunt.


In astrophysics, ball bunts you.
   42. Gamingboy Posted: July 11, 2012 at 02:32 PM (#4180267)
Okay, what about if somebody threw a ball at "just" Mach One, what happens then?
   43. Swedish Chef Posted: July 11, 2012 at 02:46 PM (#4180284)
Okay, what about if somebody threw a ball at "just" Mach One, what happens then?

It will probably make a really ugly gash in the backstop (or catcher) and disintegrate* on impact.

*) Not disintegrate as in becoming a superheated ball of plasma though, just falling apart.
   44. Gamingboy Posted: July 11, 2012 at 03:24 PM (#4180337)
Would it though? I mean, bullwhips reach supersonic speeds (which what the crack of the whip is), and I don't see bullwhips digging themselves into things.
   45. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: July 11, 2012 at 03:36 PM (#4180349)
Would it though? I mean, bullwhips reach supersonic speeds (which what the crack of the whip is), and I don't see bullwhips digging themselves into things.


Then you're going to the wrong websites.
   46. karlmagnus Posted: July 11, 2012 at 03:43 PM (#4180357)
If the pitcher's throwing Mach 1 you'd want an aluminum bat and earplugs (for the sonic boom). Then bunt. If it hits square, it's a home run.

Somewhere between Mach 1 and 0.01C, that strategy becomes pointless.
   47. Swedish Chef Posted: July 11, 2012 at 03:46 PM (#4180361)
Would it though? I mean, bullwhips reach supersonic speeds (which what the crack of the whip is), and I don't see bullwhips digging themselves into things.

The ball is heavier than the tip of a whip. It also has a bigger crosssection than a bullet (another common supersonic projectile), so a blunter impact than that causing a bullet hole seems reasonable. A good comparison might be a potato gun, although I don't think they usually are supersonic, but they are certainly capable of causing ugly gashes in a lot of things.

I guess there could could be a bit of fuzziness in the definition of what is a gash....
   48. DL from MN Posted: July 11, 2012 at 04:02 PM (#4180385)
What speed would it take to injure the catcher? 150MPH?
   49. Gamingboy Posted: July 11, 2012 at 04:17 PM (#4180404)
What speed would it take to injure the catcher? 150MPH?


Technically, even the stuff that is thrown usually hurts catchers at least a little bit, it's just that they are catchers, so they take it.
   50. phredbird Posted: July 11, 2012 at 04:24 PM (#4180415)
this thread is a riot, and i would like to nominate each comment for a primey in each of their respective parallel universes.
   51. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: July 11, 2012 at 04:28 PM (#4180419)
If the pitcher's throwing Mach 1 you'd want an aluminum bat and earplugs (for the sonic boom).

If the pitcher's throwing Mach 1, you'd want to take a sick day.
   52. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: July 11, 2012 at 09:30 PM (#4180628)
Hey! It's true! This thread exists in two places simultaneously!
   53. Jose Canusee Posted: July 11, 2012 at 09:33 PM (#4180631)
"Okay, what about if somebody threw a ball at "just" Mach One, what happens then?"
Sounds like a Mythbusters episode. If I figure out how to submit that I will. Instead I will leave you with:
Birdy, meet Mr. Johnson
   54. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 11, 2012 at 09:39 PM (#4180636)
Birdy, meet Mr. Johnson

there was a guy on ESPN years ago (can't think of his name) who used to imitate a Quebecois hockey player who described that clip as "like a pillow getting struck by lightning"
   55. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: July 11, 2012 at 11:03 PM (#4180681)
What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?

That's a clown question bro.

   56. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: July 12, 2012 at 06:36 AM (#4180756)
The most important thing for a pitcher is first strike capability.


spectacular

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