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Relativistic Baseball
what if? ^

Posted on 08/04/2013 9:27:49 AM PDT by 1rudeboy

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

Let’s set aside the question of how we got the baseball moving that fast. We'll suppose it's a normal pitch, except in the instant the pitcher releases the ball, it magically accelerates to 0.9c. From that point onward, everything proceeds according to normal physics.:

The answer turns out to be “a lot of things”, and they all happen very quickly, and it doesn’t end well for the batter (or the pitcher). I sat down with some physics books, a Nolan Ryan action figure, and a bunch of videotapes of nuclear tests and tried to sort it all out. What follows is my best guess at a nanosecond-by-nanosecond portrait:

The ball is going so fast that everything else is practically stationary. Even the molecules in the air are stationary. Air molecules vibrate back and forth at a few hundred miles per hour, but the ball is moving through them at 600 million miles per hour. This means that as far as the ball is concerned, they’re just hanging there, frozen.

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 so 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.



TOPICS: Science; Sports; Weird Stuff
KEYWORDS: stringtheory
Excerpted
1 posted on 08/04/2013 9:27:49 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: 1rudeboy

I can see it becoming more than a theoretical exercise - when Carney speaks the truth during a press conference...


2 posted on 08/04/2013 9:31:06 AM PDT by trebb (Where in the the hell has my country gone?)
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To: 1rudeboy

Dead catcher?


3 posted on 08/04/2013 9:33:31 AM PDT by JimRed (Excise the cancer before it kills us; feed &water the Tree of Liberty! TERM LIMITS, NOW & FOREVER!)
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To: JimRed
Ok, I'll give the result:

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.

4 posted on 08/04/2013 9:34:44 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: 1rudeboy

But the batter gets to take first.


5 posted on 08/04/2013 9:37:28 AM PDT by bubbacluck (America 180)
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To: liege

Sacrificial fly?


6 posted on 08/04/2013 9:38:41 AM PDT by Flick Lives (We're going to be just like the old Soviet Union, but with free cell phones!)
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To: JimRed

“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.”

Of course first base has been vaporized, as well as the rest of the field.


7 posted on 08/04/2013 9:40:01 AM PDT by SubMareener (Save us from Quarterly Freepathons! Become a MONTHLY DONOR!)
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To: 1rudeboy

I stumbled across the What If site a while back.

Very cool mental jumping jacks.


8 posted on 08/04/2013 9:43:50 AM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: Flick Lives

Or suicide squeeze.


9 posted on 08/04/2013 9:45:23 AM PDT by bubbacluck (America 180)
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To: cripplecreek

Are you watching the Tigers game today? I’m dreading it. Maybe the Sox could find this sort of a pitcher.


10 posted on 08/04/2013 9:45:55 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: cripplecreek
Seriously cool site


11 posted on 08/04/2013 9:49:41 AM PDT by HangnJudge
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To: liege

Base-on-Bosons


12 posted on 08/04/2013 9:50:33 AM PDT by mikrofon (ref. Rule No. 0.99c)
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To: 1rudeboy

Yeah I’ll be watching. Tigers have done welll considering the fact that Cabrera has only played 4 partial games of the last 10 and the Tigers have a 7 game winning streak going on.

Iglesias has been a nice surprise. They said he was a great defender but slumping at bat when he was traded from Boston but in his first game in Detroit he drove in a run and yesterday he hit a home run and almost hit a second home run.


13 posted on 08/04/2013 9:51:58 AM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: cripplecreek

Also cool

What if there was a robot apocalypse? How long would humanity last?

http://what-if.xkcd.com/5/


14 posted on 08/04/2013 9:52:32 AM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: 1rudeboy
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.

If it were a Marlins game in Miami, would anyone notice?

15 posted on 08/04/2013 9:52:59 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: 1rudeboy

Pitch #2 should be a changeup going 70% the speed of light. The batter would never be able to hold up after he gets a look at that first heater. Pitch #3 should just be a 62mph knuckleball. Batter strikes out on three pitches, swinging at the last one 12,000 times before it gets to the plate.

Freegards


16 posted on 08/04/2013 9:53:11 AM PDT by Ransomed
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To: 1rudeboy

Does the infield fly rule still apply?


17 posted on 08/04/2013 9:54:04 AM PDT by IronJack (=)
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To: 1rudeboy

I believe the batter, catcher and umpire would be instantaneously turned into a radioactive puddle of goo so a pinch hitter (from another state) would be awarded first. But even before that occurs I believe the game would be postponed on account of nuclear winter in the immediate area of the game.


18 posted on 08/04/2013 9:56:18 AM PDT by Larry381 ("Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.")
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To: 1rudeboy

So is it a strike or not?


19 posted on 08/04/2013 10:06:35 AM PDT by Old North State
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To: Old North State
Covered in some detail, here.
20 posted on 08/04/2013 10:09:25 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: 1rudeboy

Silly premises lead to silly conclusions. Nothing new in that.


21 posted on 08/04/2013 10:14:50 AM PDT by Moltke (Sapere aude!)
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To: 1rudeboy

Interesting website. I’ve been aware of the XKCD cartoons, but not this.


22 posted on 08/04/2013 10:25:40 AM PDT by exDemMom (Now that I've finally accepted that I'm living a bad hair life, I'm more at peace with the world.)
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To: Moltke

Physics is not “silly,” in my opinion. Go and show this link to a niece or a nephew of a younger age, and see what happens.


23 posted on 08/04/2013 10:29:57 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: 1rudeboy
In the novel, "The Killing Star" by Charles Pellegrino, we're attacked by aliens whose opening salvo is 1,000 rocks massing a ton each that strike the Earth at 90% of the speed of light.

We lose.

24 posted on 08/04/2013 10:32:10 AM PDT by Kip Russell (Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors -- and miss. ---Robert A. Heinlein)
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To: Kip Russell
Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress has Luna launching kinetic weapons at Earth.
25 posted on 08/04/2013 10:35:52 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: 1rudeboy
Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress has Luna launching kinetic weapons at Earth.

Indeed. They're weren't relativistic, but they still made an awfully big "bang"!

26 posted on 08/04/2013 10:42:58 AM PDT by Kip Russell (Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors -- and miss. ---Robert A. Heinlein)
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To: Kip Russell
I love this kind of stuff (full disclosure: I came close to failing AP Physics in high school):

This technology is very far out—in miles and years. A pair of satellites orbiting several hundred miles above the Earth would serve as a weapons system. One functions as the targeting and communications platform while the other carries numerous tungsten rods—up to 20 feet in length and a foot in diameter—that it can drop on targets with less than 15 minutes’ notice. When instructed from the ground, the targeting satellite commands its partner to drop one of its darts. The guided rods enter the atmosphere, protected by a thermal coating, traveling at 36,000 feet per second—comparable to the speed of a meteor. The result: complete devastation of the target, even if it’s buried deep underground. (The two-platform configuration permits the weapon to be “reloaded” by just launching a new set of rods, rather than replacing the entire system.)

Popular Science, Rods from God, June 1, 2004.


27 posted on 08/04/2013 10:48:03 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: 1rudeboy
Physics is not “silly,” in my opinion.

Thanks for making my point. (And your's is not an opinion, it's a fact, Jack.) The silly part is the premise of a 0.9c baseball in a dense atmosphere. It would have burned up long before ever getting to 0.9c. Ever see a small piece of space debris entering the thin outer atmosphere at 0.0000...c? Poof. Shooting star. Gone. You cannot suspend basic physics, go on to construct some "what if?" scenario, and then claim it's still covered by physics.

28 posted on 08/04/2013 10:56:03 AM PDT by Moltke (Sapere aude!)
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To: 1rudeboy
Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex By Larry Niven*
29 posted on 08/04/2013 10:56:34 AM PDT by Toddsterpatriot (Science is hard. Harder if you're stupid.)
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To: 1rudeboy

Oh, as to your suggestion, I would not knowingly subject any young relatives of mine to silly stuff like that before they had a firm grasp on the real principles of physics.

(That’s what public schools are for, anyway. Heh.)


30 posted on 08/04/2013 11:00:25 AM PDT by Moltke (Sapere aude!)
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To: Moltke
What premise? Your premise?

We'll suppose it's a normal pitch, except in the instant the pitcher releases the ball, it magically accelerates to 0.9c. [emphasis added]

31 posted on 08/04/2013 11:04:37 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: Toddsterpatriot
Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex By Larry Niven

My favorite bit:

We have not yet considered the existence of a Supergirl.*

*She can't mate with Superman because she's his first cousin. And only a cad would suggest differently.

The various incarnations of Supergirl:


32 posted on 08/04/2013 11:09:24 AM PDT by Kip Russell (Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors -- and miss. ---Robert A. Heinlein)
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To: 1rudeboy

cool site!


33 posted on 08/04/2013 11:32:59 AM PDT by Doomonyou (Let them eat Lead.)
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To: Toddsterpatriot
Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex By Larry Niven*

Totally logical within the premise of the Superman mythos. My favorite thought experiment is what happens when post-pubescent Clark Kent 'whacks off'? Even in farm country Kansas, super sperm will find ...

34 posted on 08/04/2013 12:01:00 PM PDT by SES1066 (Government governs best when it governs least!)
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To: 1rudeboy

In a word, all are toast [in an imperceptible instant.]


35 posted on 08/04/2013 12:03:47 PM PDT by SES1066 (Government governs best when it governs least!)
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To: 1rudeboy
magically =/= physics

There's no point at all continuing with (my premise) ‘physics’ after the (silly) premise ‘magically’. So yes, *my* premise.

My point stands: Silly premises lead to silly conclusions.

We can do this all day if you want. (Actually, I'll quit right here. No point arguing against an intentional fallacy.)

36 posted on 08/04/2013 1:32:40 PM PDT by Moltke (Sapere aude!)
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To: Old North State
So is it a strike or not?

The linked site says :

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.

They don't give the kinetic energy, though. This follows directly from K = (gamma - 1)mc2. With beta=0.9 , this comes to 1.29 mc2, i.e. 29% greater than the rest energy.

I always recall this illustration:

Half a dime is about 1 gram and a baseball is about 150 grams, so we're talking about 200 gram equivalent in kinetic energy at 0.9c. If the Hiroshima bomb was about 10 kilotons, we've got a 2 megaton explosion.

"That's the wonderful thing about science, one gets such wholesale returns in speculation on such a trifling investment of fact." - Mark Twain

37 posted on 08/04/2013 4:01:21 PM PDT by dr_lew
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To: Moltke
You cannot suspend basic physics, go on to construct some "what if?" scenario, and then claim it's still covered by physics.

Then you best burn most physics textbooks and rid the world of such things as frictionless pulleys, massless ropes connecting point masses, frictionless surfaces, continuous mass distributions etc.

38 posted on 08/05/2013 6:13:58 AM PDT by ALPAPilot
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To: dr_lew

Relativistic Baseball?

I knew the pitchers were getting fast, but...


39 posted on 08/05/2013 6:15:42 AM PDT by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter admits whom he's working for)
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To: ALPAPilot

Simplification (e.g., a point mass) to enable mathematical description is not the same as ‘magic’ as used in the article. JMHO.


40 posted on 08/05/2013 9:44:08 AM PDT by Moltke (Sapere aude!)
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To: 1rudeboy

Whatever would happen, I am pretty sure that C.B. Bucknor would get the call wrong.


41 posted on 08/05/2013 10:07:42 AM PDT by tnlibertarian
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To: tnlibertarian

Or Bud Selig declaring the game a draw.


42 posted on 08/05/2013 10:10:51 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: Moltke
My point stands: Silly premises lead to silly conclusions.

Interesting. You are on a one-man crusade against the Hypothetical. What has a hypothetical ever done to you, force some sort of inactivity on your part?

"Assume your car runs out of gas, tomorrow."
"My car never runs out of gas."
"Uh, ok."

43 posted on 08/05/2013 10:15:56 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: Flick Lives

The batter has to swing the bat at FTL speed, creating a counter front of energy, and the entire region of the park is annihilated before the spectators realize they’ve been incinerated. There is a chance that the entire planet is destroyed, depending upon who is swinging the bat.


44 posted on 08/05/2013 10:17:43 AM PDT by MHGinTN (Being deceived can be cured.)
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To: 1rudeboy

Nope, no crusade here. A hypothetical generally has a valid starting point. I don’t see it in the 0.9c baseball (since it necessitates ‘magic’ - which I don’t particularly believe in). I guess my standard for a hypothetical differs from your’s. So be it.

Have a great day and watch out for those relativistic baseballs! Those can be nasty. My sister once got hit by one. Hypothetically.


45 posted on 08/05/2013 10:56:36 AM PDT by Moltke (Sapere aude!)
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To: dr_lew

Well, you may be right, but I still think the damn umpire will blow the call.


46 posted on 08/05/2013 6:07:40 PM PDT by Old North State
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To: 6SJ7; AdmSmith; AFPhys; Arkinsaw; allmost; aristotleman; autumnraine; backwoods-engineer; ...

Thanks 1rudeboy.

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47 posted on 08/10/2013 1:33:53 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (It's no coincidence that some "conservatives" echo the hard left.)
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To: 1rudeboy

At least the batter won’t see what’s coming.


48 posted on 08/10/2013 3:43:33 PM PDT by Bullish (Psalm 46)
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