Friday, January 22, 2010

A Practical Physics Problem

Willie Mays' classic catch in the 1954 World Series -- in which he turned his back on a fly ball, raced full-speed toward the centerfield wall and, seemingly without looking, caught the ball over his shoulder -- almost seemed to defy physics. How did he know where the ball would be? Science may have the answer.

Science, and math.

1 comment:

Curmudgeon said...


Run backwards until the ball "stops rising", then move forwards as it drops.

Sheesh. Rate of change of the angle of line of sight to the ball's parabolic arc. Willie Mays have been a mathematician, you know.

Interesting to look at this from the other viewpoint, too. Why did medieval cannoneers think the ball went straight, then suddenly dropped? Because that's what it looks like from the gun.

Graph angle of line of sight vs time and the drop off shows as clear as day.

I would thought those scientists could have figured THAT out.

It ain't rocket science.