Tag: Sports

The Physics Behind Hitting A Home Run

On Monday night, some of Major League Baseball’s best sluggers will square off in the sport’s biggest annual display of brute strength: the home run derby.

Each batter has seven “outs” to hit as many balls as possible out of San Diego’s Petco Park.

To most fans, it’s just a fun spectacle. But to Alan Nathan, home-run hitting is a physics problem.

Given the distance between home plate and the outfield wall, what combination of ball speed, bat angle and external factors will send the ball out of the park?

By day, Nathan is a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, working to elucidate the structure and interactions of subatomic particles.

But the rest of the time, he’s watching baseball with an eye for the underlying physics of the sport. He’s even written several peer-reviewed papers on the subject, which are all available on his website.

At the most basic level, he said, there are just two elements to a well-hit home run: exit speed and launch angle.

If you were a freshman physics student calculating the path of a projectile, these two numbers would be all you needed to know to predict how far the ball would travel.

According to ESPN’s hit tracker, the fastest-hit home run of the season so far was a solo shot slugged by the Angels’ Mike Trout in April.

That ball was traveling 120.5 mph when it left Trout’s bat. The optimum launch angle, Nathan said, is between 25 and 30 degrees. A ball hit at a lower angle will become a line drive or a grounder; a higher angle gives you a pop-up.

These factors can balance one another. A slower ball may make it out of the park if it’s hit at the right angle; a batter can make up for a bad trajectory by hitting the ball super fast.

But astute students of baseball science should take other factors into account.

Those first four all boil down to the same thing: air density. The less dense the air is, the less resistance the ball will encounter as it soars through the stadium.

The thin air at high elevations helps balls travel farther — that’s part of how Denver’s Coors Field, which sits at an MLB-high of 5,200 feet above sea level, got its reputation as a pitcher’s nightmare.

On the other hand, humidity in the stadium can help a home-run ball — if only ever so slightly — by making the air less dense.

Air temperature also plays a part, Nathan said. A 1995 study found that fly balls travel a few feet farther for every 10 degree increase in temperature.

The average fly ball distance in above-90-degree heat was 320 feet; on sub-50-degree days, that distance fell to 304 feet.

But the effect of air density pales in comparison to that of wind.

How far a ball flies also depends on the ball itself.

The stitches on a baseball help it travel farther by reducing drag, but only to a degree — high, loose seams, like those of the repeatedly reused baseballs of the “dead ball” era, will slow it down again.

Then there’s how you hit the ball. Side spin — which happens when the batter is out in front of the ball or just a little bit late — can cause a line drive to curve foul.

But a small amount of back spin gives the ball lift, allowing it to seemingly defy gravity for slightly longer than it otherwise would.

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Just How Dangerous Are Winter Olympic Sports?

Pyeongchang has witnessed its fair share of thrills and spills, but which events result in the most injuries?

Dramatic crashes, spectacular spills and high-profile injuries – if anything, a week and a half of action in Pyeongchang has proved Winter Olympics events carry with them a fairly high degree of risk.

Australian snowboarder Jessica Rich competed at the Games just a month after tearing her ACL, and revealed she had previously broken her back, and twice broken her collarbone.

Her team-mate, Cam Bolton competed in the snowboard cross with a suspected broken wrist, while Jarryd Hughes, who won silver, has had five knee operations over the course of his career.

British speed skater Elise Christie was injured in a dramatic crash in the 1500m, and snowboarder Katie Ormerod broke her heel during training.

Australian snowboarder Tess Coady also sustained an injury during training, blaming strong winds. There have been numerous other examples.

So, just how dangerous are the various Winter Olympic sports?

We don’t yet have the final injury statistics from Pyeongchang, but journal articles detailing injury records are available from the 2010 Games in Vancouver, and 2014 in Sochi.

The relatively new events of slopestyle snowboarding and skiing are both in the top five, with snowboarding having a particularly high rate of injuries at 37 per 100 athletes.

The aerials skiing event also results in a high rate of injury, particularly during the Sochi Games, where the injury rate was 48.8 per 100 athletes, a staggeringly high figure.

The reports also looked at how severe injuries were by measuring the rate of injuries resulting in recovery times greater than a week.

The moguls, slopestyle (snowboard) and cross (both ski and snowboard) all had higher rates of more severe injuries at Sochi, with all these events having a severe injury rate of 14 or higher.

Overuse injuries were also quite common in bobsledding and cross-country skiing, while contact with the ground was the most common cause of injury for slopestyle, halfpipe and cross events.

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Olympics TV broadcast Camera Lenses Cost As Much As A Lamborghini

TV broadcast cameras that capture every minute of the Olympic Games use massive camera lenses, called box lenses, which cost more than $200,000.

Canon has more than 70 broadcast box lenses on site in PyeongChang, including some of the flagship UHD DIGISUPER 86, which you can buy on the open market for $222,980.

The camera weighs 59.5 pounds and is 10 inches wide and tall and 24 inches long.

The cameras are so heavy and expensive because they are filled with lots of glass lenses called “elements” which are used to refract and focus the light as it travels through the camera.

A DSLR camera on the market today has around 10 elements inside but the Canon broadcast camera has 30-40 elements.

The UHD DIGISUPER 86 can reach 86x zoom range while the typical DSLR reaches only 3x or 4x optical zoom.

Besides the glass, there are also plenty of electronics required to control the zoom and focus within the camera that gives it a price tag equivalent to a Lamborghini.

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Mich Ultra’s Super Bowl Ad Is Heavy On Sweat, Light On Beer

Is it an ad for your local health club … or a beer? Michelob Ultra will continue its fitness-themed campaign in the Super Bowl with a spot that includes a lot more cycling and running than drinking.

The low-calorie brew does not appear until the very end, when all the sweating is over.

The Anheuser-Busch InBev brand seeks to link social drinking and working out via the soundtrack: The theme song from the classic TV show “Cheers.”

The agency is FCB Chicago, which was behind a similar athletic-themed spot for the brand that aired in last year’s Super Bowl called “Breathe.”

This year’s ad is called “Our Bar.” An extended cut (above) will be trimmed to 30 seconds for the in-game airing.

The spot uses “real fitness enthusiasts — not actors — doing what they do day-in and day-out: going through a tough workout together and sharing cold beers afterwards to celebrate,” Ultra stated in a press release.

We recognized that the social lives and beer-drinking occasions of the Michelob Ultra consumer extend beyond gathering at the bar or at home with friends,” Azania Andrews, VP-Michelob Ultra, stated in the press release.

Communities forming around fitness activities represent a new type of socializing. ‘Our Bar’ emphasizes that beer is a part of this new world, grounded in celebrating accomplishments.”

With Friday morning’s release of the ad, AB InBev has now made public all four of its Super Bowl ads, including spots for Budweiser, Bud Light and Busch.

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