Sunday, May 17, 2009

Baseball and Physics

Let's take a break from computers and use two examples that everyone thinks about in the spring – baseball and car engines (outdoor car shows with open hoods) – using physics to explain the Photons-Electrons name.

One of the books that I highly recommend (I have no financial interest here) is a book by Ricki Linksman, M.Ed. called "How To Learn Anything Quickly". In this book Ricki Linksman has a survey that will tell you what type of learning style works best or you. I learned a number of things about myself that has absolutely helped me in learning new subjects. I came out as a kinesthetic right-brain type of learning style.

So, how does this tie back into photons and electrons? The two things I think about with new topics are UTAF and DTM (not from the book referenced above). UTA is Understand The Architecture First and DTM is Do The Math .

Photons-Electrons in the context of baseball and engines from a physics viewpoint.

When you coach kids in baseball the number one thing any young player wants is to get a hit. Not a bunt, not an error, but an out of the infield, honest to god hit. When you are coaching kids - the most important thing you must do is SIMPLIFY THE TASK.

Hitting a baseball becomes a physics lesson. You need to explain to the young player (and sometimes to the parents) that the most important aspect in hitting a baseball is bat speed - form is actually second. You must explain the physics of the bat being swung is 1/2 mass times velocity squared. In other words, the speed of the bat is four times more important than the weight of the bat. So, how do you know if the bat is too heavy? You have the young player grab the bat at the very end and hold it in one hand straight out for 7 seconds. If they are leaning backwards or shaking while they are doing this exercise, then clearly the bat is too heavy and you need a lighter bat.

The second key point from a physics standpoint in baseball is getting your hips into the swing. You tell the young player that as they swing the bat, pretend there is a bug is below their rear foot and to CRUSH THE BUG HARD as they swing. This will get their hips into the swing.

The third key point you see above is to make sure the player extends their arms fully when they swing and meet the ball with the bat being level to the ground. This again is a physics lesson - you lose tremendous amounts of power by having the arms bent when you meet the ball.

Finally, make sure the player has the right grip on the bat. The players door knocking knuckles should be lined up as in the picture below. Why? Because this will be the proper hand position when they hit the ball. They might complain that it feels uncomfortable at first, but it is the right way to grip a bat. Special thanks to my middle son Michael for demonstrating the correct baseball techniques in the above photos.

Of course there are other important points to hitting, but these first few are what will give a young player success. At least it worked with my three boys :-)

Let me give a second example horsepower. Horsepower is calculated as:

(torque times RPM) divided by 5,252

What is torque? Torque is twisting force. In the above formula, imagine a one pound weight that is one foot from a pivot. If we rotate this one full circle we have done 6.2832 foot-pounds of work (pi * the 2 foot circle).

Everyone knows RPM is Revolutions Per Minute

Why divide by 5,252? James Watt said the average horse could lift 550 pounds a one foot distance in once second. Since we are talking about RPM, we multiply 550 time 60 and we find that a horse can do 33,000 of foot-pounds of work in a minute. When we divide 33,000 foot-pounds of work in minute by 6.2832 we get 5,252.


Stated another way, if we have one-pound of torque at 5,252 RPM it is equal to 33,000 foot pounds per minute aka Watt's mythical horse.

Why does this matter? Because torque and horsepower curve will always cross at 5,252 RPM. Also, you can now discuss with your friends why it is possible to have an engine that has a lot of torque, but not great horsepower. You can pontificate on the technical torque differences between Harley-Davidsons and Suzukis.

For example, the engine below (a picture of my 98 Corvette's engine) is reported as having a pretty flat torque curve from 1,600 RPM to 5,000 RPM with the maximum torque coming in at 5,300 RPM according to different articles I have read.

This is why it can be very handy to memorize to horsepower and torque calculations so that when the car salesman blurts out:

"This engine is 430 horsepower."

You then will follow up with the natural follow-on questions:

"At what RPM was that calculated? When does the torque curve flatten out?"

This is why you should always tell the car salesman that you want to see the torque/horsepower curve printouts before you buy any car.

So, IMHO, photons are the big picture and electrons the key aspects of any topic and how they interact is what is most important and that is where I came up with the name of the blog....

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