Understanding the Physics of Baseball


(music) Jahred Adelman (Assistant Professor, Physics):
According to Newton’s first law, we have to apply extra forces if we want to change direction
while running. The shortest distance between where an outfielder starts when the ball is
hit and where the ball lands will be a straight line. This is why fielders need to judge where
the ball will land while it is in mid air and try to run to the spot on the field in
as straight of a line as possible. Jahred Adelman (Assistant Professor, Physics):
According to Newton’s first law, a runner on first base leading towards second base
was already moving away from first base takes extra time to dive back to first. The same
runner already has a head start, however, when trying to steal second base. Jahred Adelman (Assistant Professor, Physics):
According Newton’s laws we have to apply extra forces the more we want to change direction
while running. It is not possible to keep running and make very sharp turns. That’s
why we don’t run the bases in straight lines, but instead literally round the bases in curved
paths in order to get from one base to the other as quickly as possible. Jahred Adelman (Assistant Professor, Physics):
When a hitter swings the bat and hits the ball, Newton’s third law tells us that the
batter exerts a force on the ball, but then the ball then exerts a force back on the bat.
The hitter’s bat weighs a lot more than the baseball and Newton’s second law tells us
that the bat will decelerate a little bit, but the ball will accelerate a lot back into
the field, perhaps for a home-run. Jahred Adelman (Assistant Professor, Physics):
According to the law of conservation of energy, the amount of energy that we have is fixed
and cannot be changed. When a bat is about to hit the ball, it has a certain amount of
energy because it is traveling rather fast. If the ball hits the “sweet spot” of the bat
as much energy is transferred to the ball as possible. If the ball does not hit the
“sweet spot” of the bat, the bat will vibrate, stinging the hitter’s hands and providing
less energy to the ball which will travel less distance. Jahred Adelman (Assistant Professor, Physics):
According to Newton’s second law, the more force that is applied to the ball, the more
it will accelerate. That’s why hitters try to take full swings when trying to hit a home-run.
It is also why they try to apply as little force as possible when trying to drop-down
a bunt. Jahred Adelman (Assistant Professor, Physics):
A moving baseball will drag the air around it as it spins. A curveball thrown with a
lot of topspin will on average, push the air around it upward. Newton’s third law tells
us that if the ball pushes upward, the air pushes back on the ball which drops as it
approaches the plate. The more a curveball spins the more it pushes the air up and the
more the curveball drops as it approaches home. Jahred Adelman (Assistant Professor, Physics):
Newton’s laws tell us that without any additional forces, an object in rest stays at rest and
an object in motion continues in motion. When an outfielder is catching a ball and trying
to throw it back in to beat a runner who might be tagging up, he will get the ball in faster
if he is moving towards the infield when he catches the ball, thus parting some momentum
on the ball and getting it back into the infield faster. (music)

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