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The Physics of Baseball Pitches April 3, 2018

Cambrian Park, Santa Clara County
The Physics of Baseball Pitches, Cambrian Park, California

The best tutors know that preparing for a STEM field means developing an appreciation for the way math and science describe the physical world. When teaching advanced concepts to high school students, finding applications they are already familiar with can help students internalize difficult material. One helpful example is using baseball pitches to understand advanced physics concepts. Here’s a closer look at this concept.

Understanding the Physics of Baseball Pitches

Gravity, Drag, & Spin

A baseball pitch actually demonstrates three critical physics concepts: gravity, drag, and the Magnus force. While gravity pulls the ball towards the earth, the drag created by friction with the air actually slows it down. The Magnus force describes the effects of spin, which give each type of pitch its unique characteristics.

What Is the Magnus Force?

As the pitcher releases the ball, they can determine the frequency and direction of the spin, allowing them to control its trajectory. The spin of the ball creates areas of higher and lower pressure air, which creates a force at right angles with the movement of the air. For instance, a fastball is typically thrown with backspin, which creates a high-pressure zone of air in front of and underneath the ball. This effect counteracts some of the effects of gravity, and can actually give the ball the illusion of rising.

Curveballs, by contrast, have topspin, which places the higher-pressure zone above the ball, resulting in the characteristic dip in their flight path. One notable example is the knuckleball, which has no spin to counteract the effects of turbulence, making this pitch notoriously unpredictable and difficult to hit.
 

Our experienced team of tutors at Study Wizards Tutoring has extensive experience bringing physics, science, and math to life for students throughout the San Jose, CA, area. Whether your student is working ahead or struggling with academics, our tutors have the tools to help them succeed. To learn more about our science tutoring services and to schedule a free consultation, visit our website or call (408) 883-8660.

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