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The physics of baseball

Guest Keri


I was looking up how rotational motion connects to sports, and figure skating was obviously the first thing that came up. This is because skating involves a lot of twists and turns and in order to maximize their performance, they need to know how to use their arms to increase and decrease angular velocity. We did a demonstration of this in class where students stood on a platform that rotated, and carried bricks in their hands, and brought their hands closer to their body to increase angular velocity and vice versa. It was a great example, and really helped me to see a visual to understand the physics involved.

Looking into other sports related to rotational motion, I found that baseball had quite a few connections. My last blog was about the force of the ball hitting the bat, dealing with follow through. This time, I looked into the center of mass, and the 'sweet spot' of a bat. The sweet spot being the place on the bat where the batter feels very little to no impact due to the collision. The farther away the ball hits from the sweet spot, the more the batters hand will hurt because the impact is greater. So not only is follow through important to hitting properly, but also the placement on the bat is very crucial too. In order to find the sweet spot in the bat, rotational motion, angular velocity, center of mass, moment of inertia, impulse, torque, and angular impulse (a new one to me) are all taken into consideration.

To be completely honest, I do not understand everything this website (http://farside.ph.utexas.edu/teaching/301/lectures/node107.html#f83) explained because of some new equations and new theories, however I knew enough to where I could see where most of the numbers were coming from to develop and understanding of how to calculate the sweet spot. They did it with a uniform bat and came up with the sweet spot being 2/3 the distance of the bat from the hitters hands side. Most bats people use are not uniform, and therefore will increase that number slightly.

I found this very interesting because it connected to what we are learning in AP-C Physics and because I always knew there was a good spot to hit the ball in order to maximize the hit, however I had no idea at all where that spot was. Thanks to this website, I now have a better idea of how to find that spot, and why that spot is where it is, due to many different topics in physics.

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I've also seen the sweet spot modeled by looking at the nodes and antinodes in a bat http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~cross/baseball.html.

You can also find the Physics of Baseball as part of a freshman physics course here: https://teamphysics.physics.uiuc.edu/SiteDirectory/PHYS199BBBlog/default.aspx

And of course, KQED Quest's Physics of Baseball videos, which we often show in class... http://www.kqed.org/quest/television/out-of-the-park-the-physics-of-baseball

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