Recently Joe Posnanski discussed our tendency to exalt the greatness of an individual to the point that people forget how great the person’s achievements actually are. Whereas Posnanski wrote about Joe DiMaggio as overrated to the point of underrated, as I read a biography of Albert Einstein, I am convinced Einstein also falls into this category.
Everyone knows Einstein was smart. But his sheer genius has been so accepted that I really think people have forgotten how smart he really was. Einstein’s view of the universe completely flipped conventional wisdom. He did nothing less than make Nobel prize winners question their notions of reality*.
(Sorry about that. I couldn’t resist the Clutch reference.)
Anyway, although I’m only about a quarter through the 800-page biography, I’ve come to the conclusion that Einstein was smarter, or perhaps more intuitive, than I thought.
That said, my mind has started wandering a bit as I have been reading. Especially after I read about Einstein’s theory of energy, specifically how the mass of an object increases as its motion nears the speed of light (the famous E=MC2). Of course, being inquisitive, I have a few questions:
(Note: For those wondering if this post was going have anything to do with sports, here is your smooth segue.)
- Is it humanly possible to throw a ball have it become heavier?
- Although announcers and baseball pundits like to call certain sinking fastballs “heavy”, are they really? Or is their “heaviness” just a figure of speech to explain their rotation or the effect of the backspin and other aerodynamic factors?
(By the way, for a great book on basic baseball physics, to include what makes a knuckleball “flutter”, check out Robert K. Adair’s “The Physics of Baseball“. Don’t be scared. It’s less than 200 pages.)
- How fast would a ball have to go to shatter the sweet spot of a bat? What about an aluminum bat? What about on the moon, or any other place with less gravity than Earth?
- On a related note, would a Sidd Finch fastball (168 mph) break a bat closer to the sweet spot? Or does it depend more on the spin and the angle of the swing?
Now I’ll admit, those probably aren’t the most complex baseball-related physics problems. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were actually quite easy. And I know they have little to do with Einstein. But I am still curious.
So if there are any physicists out there, feel free to drop some knowledge in the comments.
Oh yeah, and everyone should check out this link: The Physics of Baseball. There is some really good stuff on there. Did you know the University of Illinois actually offered a freshman-level course on baseball physics?