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The Physics of Babe Ruth


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Very interesting piece by Alan Nathan on an article by a physicist from the 1920s describing what happens when Babe Ruth hits a baseball. Nathan is quite well known as a physicist who writes about baseball, and he provides commentary about what this old article got right and what it got wrong. And a good bit of it was spot-on. I found it interesting that it's essentially impossible to hit a ball more than ~550 feet even under the most optimistic assumptions. That conforms to modern observation, but is at odds with a lot of old, anecdotal reports of Herculean home runs.

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If two inelastic bodies--say two pieces of lead--of equal weight and going with equal speed, but in opposite directions meet squarely in mid-air, they will both stop and fall to the ground, all their energy of motion having been turned into heat. If, however, perfectly elastic bodies of the same weight going with the same velocity, but in opposite directions, meeet in mid-air, they will bounce back with the same velocity they had originally. If one of these bodies has twice the velocity of the other, the latter will bounce back with twice its original velocity and the former will bounce back only half as fast. All this applies to bodies having the same weight. Whenever one of the colliding bodies is heavier than the other, the velocity given the latter body upon bouncing is enormously increased.

Real fun. Thanks.

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