FUN: The Physics of Strikes and Homers

Science  19 Sep 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5640, pp. 1641
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5640.1641c

Want to know why a curveball curves? Curious about whether the illegal corked bat wielded by Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa really provides an advantage? Forget the loudmouths on ESPN and check out The Physics of Baseball, a collection of original articles and links fielded by Alan Nathan of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Physicists pitch their explanations of everything from curveball aerodynamics to the performance difference between wood and aluminum bats. For example, baseball's authorities suspended Sosa this summer for using the doctored bat, but Nathan explains in an essay that corking—replacing the bat's core with a lighter material—doesn't necessarily help. The modification does shift the center of gravity toward the handle, allowing the player to swing faster, but the reduced weight doesn't drive the ball as far. For a power hitter like Sosa, the net benefit was probably negligible.

www.npl.uiuc.edu/∼a-nathan/pob

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