Wednesday, July 11, 2012


What would happen if you could throw a baseball at 90% of the speed of light?

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 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...

Read the whole thing but the short version is that everything nearby is incinerated; cats, especially so.
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.
Yep, first base, which is by now a cloud accelerating upward and outward from the ball park.

It's good that we have cartoons to explore these questions. Liberals (aka "the science guys") love thought experiments like this because they can pretend to understand things like angstroms and joules, and at the same time get ideas for new areas to regulate and tax. (since a speeding baseball is capable of this sort of carnage, doesn't it make sense that a curve-ball traveling at 82 mph is safer than a fastball in the mid 90's? Doesn't it make sense to ban fastballs now, before they cause a problem?)

Next up? I'd like to see an exploration of the phenomenon of lid-ice cream being much better tasting than the main body of ice cream in the tub.