Daily Archives: July 10, 2012

July 10, 2012

XKCD on baseball at the speed of light

And no, this isn’t a post about Cincinnati Reds flamethrower Aroldis Chapman.

Randall Munroe, the guy behind the web comic XKCD, has launched a new weekly feature where he will answer science questions submitted by readers. Today’s–the first one–just so happens to focus on baseball.

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

Typically, hypothetical questions like this are first responded to by how impossible something like that is. To his credit Munroe decides to skip over that and actually answer the question, and it’s an entertaining read.

The ideas of aerodynamics don’t apply here. Normally, air would flow around anything moving through it. But 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.

These gamma rays and debris expand outward in a bubble centered on the pitcher’s mound. They start to tear apart the molecules in the air, ripping the electrons from the nuclei and turning the air in the stadium into an expanding bubble of incandescent plasma. The wall of this bubble approaches the batter at about the speed of light—only slightly ahead of the ball itself.

That does not sound or look good, and it wouldn’t be. The results would be catastrophic. Read the whole thing, and be sure to stick around for the footnote.

If you’re a fan of XKCD, you might also be interested in this comic I made a few years back.

July 10, 2012

Daily Brief: All Star Game edition

Last Game
It’s not exactly a game, but the Home Run Derby was last night. Prince Fielder was the winner for the second time in his career: he also won the Derby in 2009.

Player Team Round 1 Round 2 Subtotal Finals Total
Prince Fielder Tigers 5 11 16 12 28
José Bautista Blue Jays 11 2 13 (2) 7 20
Mark Trumbo Angels 7 6 13 (1) 13
Carlos Beltrán Cardinals 7 5 12 12
Carlos González Rockies 4 4 4
Andrew McCutchen Pirates 4 4 4
Matt Kemp Dodgers 1 1 1
Robinson Canó Yankees 0 0 0

Giancarlo Stanton had originally be named to the National League Home Run Derby team but was injured and so was replaced by the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen isn’t exactly a home run hitter, but he didn’t do too badly representing the NLC. I mean, he didn’t get the worst score.

Next Game
The All Star Game is tonight in Kansas City. The Reds’ Joey Votto will be starting at first base and batting cleanup for the National League. First pitch is at 8 p.m. ET and you can watch it on FOX. Here are the line-ups:

National League

  • 1. Gonzalez, Col
  • 2. Cabrera, SF
  • 3. Braun, Mil
  • 4. Votto, Cin
  • 5. Beltran, StL
  • 6. Posey, SF
  • 7. Sandoval, SF
  • 8. Uggla, Atl
  • 9. Furcal, StL
  • SP. Cain, SF

American League

  • 1. Jeter, NY
  • 2. Cano, NY
  • 3. Hamilton, Tex
  • 4. Bautista, Tor
  • 5. Fielder, Det
  • 6. Beltre, Tex
  • 7. Ortiz, Bos
  • 8. Napoli, Tex
  • 9. Granderson, NY
  • SP. Verlander, Det

LaRussa’s Arrogance Is the Real All-Star
The latest All-Star snub Tony LaRussa has handed out is to R.A. Dickey. Dickey is a 37-year old knuckleballer who is having a phenomenal year with the New York Mets. He already has a 12-1 record, 3 complete games, and a 2.40 ERA. He is certainly the pitcher having the best year in the NL right now, and certainly the most interesting story.

But, as you know, LaRussa knows all and sees all, and has instead chosen the Giants’ Matt Cain to start for the National League. Cain’s having a good year and (unlike Dickey) he’ll be a familiar presence to the starting catcher from the Giants, Buster Posey.

To me, all that is well and good. Not what people were expecting, but at least there was rational basis for it (unlike when he snubbed Johnny Cueto). The thing that makes it a classless move is that TLR didn’t even bother to call Dickey to tell him first. Dickey heard about it when someone texted him the news.

I know you’re not supposed to talk ill of the retired, but baseball will be better off finally seeing the back of Tony LaRussa.

What to Say to Sound Smart at the Water Cooler
Prince Fielder is only the second player ever to win multiple Home Run Derby titles. The first was Ken Griffey Jr, who won 3.