P-A Colloquium: Physics of Baseball

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Speaker:  Alan Nathan, University of Illinois

Title: Recent Advances in the Physics of Baseball

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Refreshments will be available starting at 2:45 pm as part of the 2018 P-A Awards Reception in 1400 BPS.

Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2018, 4:10 pm – 5:10 pm
Type: Colloquium
Location: 1415 BPS Bldg.

After reading Bob Adair's classic book The Physics of Baseball over 20 years ago, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the subject. Since then I have learned much, much more, due in large part to some superb tools that are now available. These tools, which I will describe in the talk, allow detailed studies that were not available to Adair at the time he wrote his book. The advances have come in two broad areas: The aerodynamics of a baseball in flight and the physics of the ball-bat collision. Not only have these advances furthered our understanding of the physics, but they have also had a practical application to the game itself. I will give several examples, including some of the following:

  • What is the role of the batter's grip during the ball-bat collision?
  • How do atmospheric conditions affect the flight of the baseball?
  • Why the recent surge in home runs?
  • What is the “launch angle revolution”?
  • What's the deal with the humidor?

I will sprinkle the talk with amusing high-speed videos and anecdotes about our national pastime. So, the talk should have something for everybody, whether your interest is primarily physics, baseball, or the intersection between them.