Friday, July 27, 2012

Now That's a Fastball!...and Ultrarunning

The geek in me loves articles like this one: what if a baseball were pitched at 90% of the speed of light?

Via the Earthbound Misfit, who links to What If? a weekly physics blog.

After about 70 nanoseconds the ball arrives at home plate. The batter hasn't even seen the pitcher let go of the ball, since the light carrying that information arrives at about the same time the ball does. Collisions with the air have eaten the ball away almost completely, and it is now a bullet-shaped cloud of expanding plasma (mainly carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen) ramming into the air and triggering more fusion as it goes. The shell of x-rays hits the batter first, and a handful of nanoseconds later the debris cloud hits.


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.
mushroom cloud

And then the deadpan punch line:

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.

And the link to Ultrarunning?  I often run at speeds approaching that of light, but then I back it way down so as not to create any inconvenient incidents like that described above.


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