# Physics of Baseball Activities

This is a basic set of fun activities that explore some of the fundamental physics behind the grand old game. Most of the experiments involve simple and cheap equipment. Only a few of them require any math and they are indicated. They are all pdf files. Please enjoy them and feel free to send feedback to me at the address below.
• ## The Physics of a of a Baseball in Flight

The Fall Classic
All objects feel the effects of gravity even a well-hit baseball. You will learn an important idea about the way gravity works and understand the difference between gravity and air resistance.

Flight of Fancy
In the "Fall Classic" experiment, you learned about gravity and how it effects objects that are falling straight downward. Here you will understand how gravity affects a flying object like a lined shot headed for the Green Monster.

Launching a Homer
If you want to hit a homerun, you certainly want to hit the ball as hard as possible, but what angle should you launch it for the greatest distance? Do you think the best launch angle for the baseball is 45-degrees? Is it more or less? What about a ping-pong ball? Here is an experiment you can do with a ping-pong ball to see what happens.

Spin Doctor
In any professional baseball game you can watch pitchers fool batters with their magic. The magic is done by the "Magnus force" induced by the spin the pitcher imparts to the ball. The Magnus force is exerted perpendicular to the plane defined by the axis of spin and the axis of the velocity of the airflow over the ball.

Force Play
This exercise will help you be sure you understand the way forces act on the motion of a ball by asking you to sketch the forces on balls in different situations.

• ## The Physics of Pitching

The Itch to Pitch
Don't you wish you had a major league fastball and a biting curve? You will after this activity!

In Stitches
The most "striking" feature of a baseball is the interesting stitch pattern. The stitches have two important uses for pitchers. First, they provide a place to get a better grip on the ball. Secondly, they interact with the air as the ball moves. The stitches slightly affect the air drag, but they strongly affect the Magnus force. Here you will get to learn the how stitches make a difference in the flight of a thrown ball.

Thanks to a company called Sportsvision and Major League Baseball you can get the initial position, initial velocity, and average acceleration of any pitch thrown in the big leagues. The video technology that tracks pitches is called PITCHf/x. This activity will show you how to calculate many quantities associated with pitches using the kinematic equations.

• ## The Physics of a Baseball Bat

Up the Middle
Why do some bats feel right and others not so much? There are several design features of a baseball bat in addition to its mass and length. They are the center of mass (CM), the center of oscillation (CO), the center of percussion (CP), the moment of inertia (MOI), and the vibrational nodes (VN). All of these affect the feel and effectiveness of a bat. After this activity, you will understand the center of mass (CM) and how to find it for a bat.

The Game in the Balance
To understand the next feature of a baseball bat, the center of oscillation (CO), we need to develop a related idea called "rotational inertia." Here's a bit of fun to help you build your knowledge.

The Perfect Swing
You will get to understand more about the idea of rotational inertia, by learning how to measure a distance called the "center of oscillation (CO)". The "moment of inertia (MOI)" is a numerical measure of rotational inertia and is directly related to the CO. You will learn to measure the CO of a baseball bat using a baseball pendulum and then calculate the MOI of the bat.

Quick Reactions
When the ball hits the bat it exerts a huge force, usually more than one ton! The reaction force on your hands depends upon where on the bat the ball is hit. There is a spot on the bat called the "center of percussion" or CP where you won't feel anything. You will learn to find this spot on a bat.

Vibrating Bats
Have you ever hit a ball off the end of the bat and felt the "hand full of bumble bees?" When a bat hits the ball, the bat can start to vibrate. When this happens energy that could go into making the ball go further is used to make the bat vibrate. You'll investigate the nature of these vibrations.

Silence of the Slam
In "Vibrating Bats" you learned about the way bats vibrate because of the collision with the ball. In this activity you will learn how to find the vibrational node for an actual baseball bat. The vibrational node will turn out to also have something to say about the "sweet spot."

• ## The Physics of Hitting

Off the Wall
The rules of baseball state a legal baseball traveling at 60mph at a wall of northern white ash must rebound with a speed of 54.6 +/- 3.2% of the initial speed. This number, 0.546, is called the "coefficient of restitution," or COR. You will measure the COR of a superball and a baseball.

Chill Out
The COR of a baseball is supposed to be precisely 0.546. However, this value depends not only on the properties of the ball, but also on the temperature and humidity of the ball. This experiment will illustrate the effect of temperature on the COR.

Bat Performance Factor
The COR of a baseball slammed against a wall is about 54.6%. Is it the same for a ball hitting a bat? Well, that depends upon the bat. The Bat Performance Factor or BPF is listed on most aluminum bats you buy. You will understand why the rules of many leagues only allow bats with a BPF of 1.20 or less.

Laying Down A Bunt
The perfect bunt has been described as "catching the ball with the bat." When you swing a bat, the usual goal is to hit the ball as hard as possible. That is, to have as much momentum as possible go into the motion of the ball. The art of laying down a bunt is about reducing the momentum that the bat gives the ball. This activity will help you understand the physics behind this feat.

Playing the Angles
Being able to hit the ball well to all fields is a matter of strength and timing. Compared to a well hit ball up the middle, a right handed batter must swing just a bit later to hit it toward right field and a bit earlier to hit it to left. There is some very basic physics behind this timing that you will explore.

• ## The Physics of Fielding

Nice Catch
You have probably noticed that sometimes when you catch a hard thrown ball in the palm of your glove, it really hurts. Sometimes it doesn't. Have you noticed that when it really hurts, the ball often pops out of your glove? This activity will help you understand the physics of catching a baseball.