The Physics of Baseball

Chicago Council on Science and Technology and the Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington Center present

Just in time for opening day!

Dr Alan Nathan spent a career doing experimental nuclear physics, where he studied the high-speed collisions of subatomic particles. These days he spends his time working on the physics of baseball, studying the not-so-high-speed collisions of baseballs with bats, among other things. And believe it or not, many of the same principles that apply to the former also apply to the latter. He will provide a flavor for that in this talk by telling us about some of the interesting physics apparent to him each and every time he watches a game. Here are some examples:

1. How did Todd Frazier hit that “no-hands” home run?

2. Why did Joc Pederson turn the wrong way on Kris Bryant’s shot to center field?

3. How does a batter optimize his swing?

4. Why the increase in home runs during the 2016 season?

This should be a fun talk for all, whether your interest is purely baseball, purely physics, or anywhere in between. You may never watch a baseball game the same way again.

Alan Nathan, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Illinois. After a long career as an experimental nuclear physicist, he now spends his time researching the physics of the national pastime. He has written numerous papers on the subject for scientific journals, primarily on the physics of the ball-bat collision and the flight of a baseball. In addition, he has lectured on the subject to both scientific and popular audiences and maintains a frequently visited “physics of baseball” website, He sits by his phone each day hoping for a call from the Boston Red Sox.

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