The Physics of Baseball

This year on February 8th, Dr. Alan Nathan from the University of Illinois will speak about The Physics of Baseball. Dr. Nathan is a professor emeritus of physics and is considered one of the world's foremost experts on the physics of baseball.

  • Title: "The Physics of Baseball"
  • Speaker: Dr. Alan M. Nathan
  • Date: Friday, February 8th, 7:00pm
  • Venue: Amoco Hall (Room 1C01), Swearingen Engineering Center, Columbia, SC

Dr. Nathan's talk was sponsored by Carolina Science Outreach and the University of South Carolina’s Athletics Department, Department of Mathematics, and Department of Physics & Astronomy.

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Meet Dr. Nathan

Dr. Alan M. Nathan has been a Professor in the Physics Department at the University of Illinois since 1977. His research specialty is experimental nuclear/particle physics, with over 80 publications in scientific journals to his credit. In the past decade or so, he has expanded his research interests to include the physics of baseball and has published numerous papers in this area. He has given many talks on the subject, from audiences ranging from those primarily interested in physics to those primarily interested in baseball--and everywhere in between. He has served on panels advising organizations such as MLB, the NCAA, and USA Baseball on issues related to bat performance. Visit his website for more information.

A Sneak Peek

Broken Bat Frame by Frame

The above clip from NLCS, Game 4 shows Marco Scutaro hitting the ball right near the tip of the barrel. The amplitude of the resulting vibration is so large that the bat breaks and the ball weakly dribbles off the bat. Note that the bat splinters toward the pitcher. The reason is that when the ball hits the barrel tip, the barrel of the bat bends backward toward the catcher and the center of the bat bulges forward toward the pitcher. That is the natural shape of the fundamental vibrational mode of the bat. Since the fracture occurs near the center which is bulging outward, that is how the bat splinters, as the wood fibers on the pitcher side of the bat are stretched to the breaking point. If the ball had impacted the bat near the center, the center would have bulged toward the catcher.