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(XKCD)   Randall Munroe of xkcd takes on a strange scientific question: What would happen if a pitcher threw a baseball at 90% of the speed of light? Nuclear hilarity ensues   (what-if.xkcd.com) divider line 78
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7197 clicks; posted to Geek » on 10 Jul 2012 at 2:38 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-07-10 02:42:33 PM
Advances to first base
 
2012-07-10 02:43:34 PM
The pitcher gets his name in the hall of fame but with a (*) next to it.
 
2012-07-10 02:47:13 PM
I love xkcd and randall
 
2012-07-10 02:47:29 PM
Technically, the pitcher doesn't throw the baseball at 90% of the speed of light. He clearly states that the pitcher throws the ball normally, but it magically accelerates to .9c.

I'm not saying it's wizards, but...it's wizards.
 
2012-07-10 02:47:34 PM

Egoy3k: The pitcher gets his name in the hall of fame but with a (*) next to it.


Only if he's played at least ten seasons. Aroldis Chapman pulling this tonight would result in him being out of luck. As well as flesh and anything resembling a bone structure.
 
2012-07-10 02:51:28 PM
$5 says CB Bucknor calls it a ball.

Then throws at Bobby Cox for arguing
 
2012-07-10 02:51:44 PM

Egoy3k: The pitcher gets his name in the hall of fame but with a (*) next to it.


*also the murderer of 100,000+ people
 
2012-07-10 02:52:27 PM
What the...? OK So a pitcher throws a ball 80 mph, then it "magically" accelerates to .9c? Then SCIENCE!

So it's normal pitch, then magic, then science.

Keep it.
 
2012-07-10 02:54:19 PM
Obviously, the pitcher had pine tar on the ball. Confiscate his glove!
 
2012-07-10 02:55:52 PM

Owangotang: What the...? OK So a pitcher throws a ball 80 mph, then it "magically" accelerates to .9c? Then SCIENCE!

So it's normal pitch, then magic, then science.

Keep it.


Never heard of a thought experiment? It doesn't have to be 100% accurate to try and untangle some theoretical lesson


/Assume a spherical cow...
 
2012-07-10 02:57:03 PM
i guess if the pitcher was moving his arm at .9c it would cause an explosion before the ball left his hand
 
2012-07-10 02:58:39 PM

Uisce Beatha: /Assume a spherical cow...


Leave my wife out of this.
 
2012-07-10 02:59:19 PM
So I guess the lesson here is; if you're going to be pitching balls close to the speed of light, do it in a vacuum.
 
2012-07-10 02:59:23 PM

AdamK: i guess if the pitcher was moving his arm at .9c it would cause an explosion before the ball left his hand


I doubt the arm would remain structurally sound at any significant fraction of c. It's probably more possible for *magic*, as Owangotang puts it, to accelerate the ball to 0.9c than for the pitcher to do it.
 
2012-07-10 02:59:41 PM
If this happened at a Yankees-Sox game, nothing of value would be lost!
 
2012-07-10 03:00:08 PM

Owangotang: So it's normal pitch, then magic, then science.


That's just to make the rest of it work. We don't need to muss it up with some theoretical construct that can fire the ball that fast. We just need a pitch thrown by a pitcher.
 
2012-07-10 03:00:33 PM
The batter hasn't even seen the pitcher let go of the ball, since the light carrying that information arrives at about the same time the ball does.

I thought the ball was going .9C, not C
 
2012-07-10 03:00:38 PM
Of course this only works for spherical chickens in a vacuum

/not even close to obscure
 
2012-07-10 03:00:39 PM

Gosling: Egoy3k: The pitcher gets his name in the hall of fame but with a (*) next to it.

Only if he's played at least ten seasons. Aroldis Chapman pulling this tonight would result in him being out of luck. As well as flesh and anything resembling a bone structure.


Nah, he wouldn't need 10 seasons to get in. Addie Joss only played 8 seasons. Joss, like our hypothetical pitcher here, died in the middle of his career, and was given special consideration.

However, it's unlikely he'd be in the Hall anyway, for a different reason. HOF rule 6 states

"6. Automatic Elections: No automatic elections based on performances such as a batting average of .400 or more for one (1) year, pitching a perfect game or similar outstanding achievement shall be permitted."

This pitch is clearly an "outstanding achievement" (if we ignore the wizards) and so would not be worthy of automatic election.
 
2012-07-10 03:00:56 PM
www.usernetsite.com

Somehow, earth was spared.
 
2012-07-10 03:01:05 PM
"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."

El Oh El
 
2012-07-10 03:04:48 PM
Riiight.
 
2012-07-10 03:06:41 PM
 
2012-07-10 03:07:59 PM
automatedman.com

Just 0.9c? Somebody needs to teach this motherfarker how to throw some farking heat.

I once threw a pitch so hard, it traveled back in time and struck out Mickey Mantle.
 
2012-07-10 03:08:43 PM
m5.paperblog.com

mimg.actressarchives.com

www.themoviemind.com

Much shorter movie.
 
2012-07-10 03:09:10 PM

Tobin_Lam: The batter hasn't even seen the pitcher let go of the ball, since the light carrying that information arrives at about the same time the ball does.

I thought the ball was going .9C, not C


Operative qualifier bolded. .9C and C over the distance of 60'6" isn't appreciable.
 
2012-07-10 03:12:09 PM

Tobin_Lam: The batter hasn't even seen the pitcher let go of the ball, since the light carrying that information arrives at about the same time the ball does.

I thought the ball was going .9C, not C


That's close enough to C for the batter's brain not to have processed what is happening before he's engulfed by plasma.
 
2012-07-10 03:13:17 PM
But what Randall didn't account for was that the catcher had his Higgs Boson Adjusting Device and he dialed down the mass of the baseball to nothing so therefore the pitch was actually able to exceed c and was able to strike out the batter yesterday. We can worry about the effects of the gamma rays tomorrow.
 
2012-07-10 03:14:28 PM

Tobin_Lam: The batter hasn't even seen the pitcher let go of the ball, since the light carrying that information arrives at about the same time the ball does.

I thought the ball was going .9C, not C


Correct. Hence the word "about". The (remainder of the) ball would be 90% of the way there before the photons reach the batter's eyes to indicate the ball had even been released.
 
2012-07-10 03:16:40 PM

guestguy: [m5.paperblog.com image 465x347]

[mimg.actressarchives.com image 450x304]

[www.themoviemind.com image 385x209]

Much shorter movie.


Ok, that was pretty good.
 
2012-07-10 03:18:35 PM

Owangotang: What the...? OK So a pitcher throws a ball 80 mph, then it "magically" accelerates to .9c? Then SCIENCE!

So it's normal pitch, then magic, then science.

Keep it.


or . . . you know, you could read the article . . . whatever works for you.

The question was:

What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?

Therefore the mechanics getting to that point are irrelevant. The main question is what is a baseball going .9C going to do.

//interesting thought experiment.
\messy outcome.
 
rpm
2012-07-10 03:20:16 PM

Khellendros: Correct. Hence the word "about". The (remainder of the) ball would be 90% of the way there before the photons reach the batter's eyes to indicate the ball had even been released.


And then add several ms processing time. It's long gone by the time he sees it.
 
2012-07-10 03:22:57 PM

escherblacksmith: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?

Therefore the mechanics getting to that point are irrelevant. The main question is what is a baseball going .9C going to do.



I would be very curious to see his experiment carried out further - assume the bat is moving at 0.9c in the swinging motion the instant it strikes the ball over the plate. The relativistic effects of two objects traveling in opposite directions at 0.9c making contact, the energy release, the newly fused elements (wood + the remainder of the plasma ball core), etc. That would be pretty cool.
 
2012-07-10 03:24:48 PM
You put snot...

img853.imageshack.us

on the ball?
 
2012-07-10 03:25:10 PM

Khellendros: guestguy: [m5.paperblog.com image 465x347]

[mimg.actressarchives.com image 450x304]

[www.themoviemind.com image 385x209]

Much shorter movie.

Ok, that was pretty good.


i52.tinypic.com

You know, man, if we ever make it home, I'm going to do so much farking cocaine. I'm gonna rape so many flaming biatches. I'll be like, "What time is it? After 5:00? Damn. Time to go rape me some flaming biatches."
 
2012-07-10 03:39:00 PM
nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnNNNNEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRDSSSSsssssssssss

// Was that a slider?
 
2012-07-10 03:43:02 PM
Funniest thing I've read in months.

/not sure why
 
2012-07-10 03:56:04 PM

squidgod2000: Funniest thing I've read in months.

/not sure why


Probably the instant incineration of all parties involved. That gets me every time.
 
2012-07-10 04:00:54 PM
Awesome.
 
2012-07-10 04:08:13 PM
That would explain why Cano couldn't hit a homerun last night.
 
2012-07-10 04:08:22 PM
i.imgur.com
 
2012-07-10 04:10:08 PM

squidgod2000: Funniest thing I've read in months.

/not sure why


Honestly, the bit that really got me was the mention of the fact that this would be a walk by baseball rules.
 
2012-07-10 04:27:21 PM

escherblacksmith: Owangotang: What the...? OK So a pitcher throws a ball 80 mph, then it "magically" accelerates to .9c? Then SCIENCE!

So it's normal pitch, then magic, then science.

Keep it.

or . . . you know, you could read the article . . . whatever works for you.

The question was:

What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?

Therefore the mechanics getting to that point are irrelevant. The main question is what is a baseball going .9C going to do.

//interesting thought experiment.
\messy outcome.


Not true.

The comic actually makes a point of showing the pitcher throwing the ball at 80mph, then it magically accelerates to .9C. That's not a thought experiment and it's not science.

Now if we want to consider a baseball that somehow accelerates to .9C without having been thrown by a pitcher that's fine, however the whole thing is essentially the same as saying "A pitcher throws a baseball that magically transmogrifies itself into a bear with pterodactyl arms, check out what happens next!"

Oh sh*t, I just wrote the next comic for The Oatmeal.
 
2012-07-10 04:28:23 PM

Owangotang: What the...? OK So a pitcher throws a ball 80 mph, then it "magically" accelerates to .9c? Then SCIENCE!

So it's normal pitch, then magic, then science.

Keep it.


Please tell me that you don't write software.

SupersonicII: [i.imgur.com image 319x235]


+1 World Wide Whassups for legitimately working a reference to Tales of Game's Presents Chef Boyardee's Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa into any Fark thread..
 
2012-07-10 04:31:20 PM

AdamK: would cause an explosion before the ball left his hand


Sounds like my first date.
 
2012-07-10 04:48:01 PM

Owangotang: The comic actually makes a point of showing the pitcher throwing the ball at 80mph, then it magically accelerates to .9C. That's not a thought experiment and it's not science.


Einstein imagined himself riding a beam of light when he was thinking about relativity. Something exactly as possible as what happens with the pitch in TFA. Thought experiments don't need to be realistic in their set up, it's the details that matter.
 
2012-07-10 04:49:34 PM

Khellendros: escherblacksmith: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?

Therefore the mechanics getting to that point are irrelevant. The main question is what is a baseball going .9C going to do.


I would be very curious to see his experiment carried out further - assume the bat is moving at 0.9c in the swinging motion the instant it strikes the ball over the plate. The relativistic effects of two objects traveling in opposite directions at 0.9c making contact, the energy release, the newly fused elements (wood + the remainder of the plasma ball core), etc. That would be pretty cool.


Jim Rice could probably do it.
 
2012-07-10 04:53:51 PM
"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"...

Technically, the rule isn't clear.

"If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched."

Since the ball would be both in and out of the strike zone, there would be no obvious ruling.
 
2012-07-10 04:59:52 PM

Tobin_Lam: The batter hasn't even seen the pitcher let go of the ball, since the light carrying that information arrives at about the same time the ball does.

I thought the ball was going .9C, not C


At near the speed of light (.9c), the photons from the ball would reach the batter's eye approximately 6 (2 meters) feet before the ball would. Once the light reaches the photoreceptors in the retina (rods and cones), an action potential is generated, that travels along the optic nerve and into the visual cortex. Once there, it is processed (conscious thought is said to travel at 20-30 meters per second, or on the slower end of nerve impulses). The action potential takes one or two ms. Then it must propagate along the optic nerve (20-30mm long). The upper end of nerve impulses approach 100 meters per second (in the case of motor neurons, not sure about optic nerves though). Let's say after the first millisecond, it takes another .0002 seconds (or 1/5th of a millisecond) for the action potential to move along the optic nerve. Let's be conservative now and say it is processed by 10 centimeters of neurons in your visual cortex. We're at 1.2 milliseconds at the low end at the moment. At 30 meters per second (the speed that "thought" takes place), it takes .03333 seconds (33 milliseconds) to be processed. If this was Wrigley Field, the ball, if it were to keep going at .9c, would reach Buenos Aires, Argentina (5,580 miles from Chicago) before the batter would biochemically "see" the ball.

By the time the batter sends motor impulses to his muscles to attempt a swing, the ball would probably be closer to the moon than Earth, or would have circumnavigated the globe a few times.

And if I misplaced a decimal point, the ball will still be very, very far away before the batter registers it visually.
 
2012-07-10 05:04:40 PM
Uisce Beatha: Owangotang: What the...? OK So a pitcher throws a ball 80 mph, then it "magically" accelerates to .9c? Then SCIENCE!

So it's normal pitch, then magic, then science.

Keep it.

Never heard of a thought experiment? It doesn't have to be 100% accurate to try and untangle some theoretical lesson


/Assume a spherical cow...


He obviously though Prometheus was THE WORST MOVIE OF ALL TIME too. Give him a break.
 
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