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Science

5000 fps Camera Reveals the Physics of Baseball 144

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-go-tigers dept.
concealment sends this quote from an article at The Physics of Baseball "This clip from 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, as in the Yadier Molina clip. Had the vibrational amplitude been strong enough in the Molina case, the bat would have splintered toward the catcher."
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5000 fps Camera Reveals the Physics of Baseball

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  • First (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22, 2012 @09:16AM (#41727773)

    First pitch!

  • by lewscroo (695355) on Monday October 22, 2012 @09:22AM (#41727815)
    Great, way to make the game orders of magnitude longer.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Baseball: (n) A game invented by people who thought cricket was too boring, but who then somehow managed to create a game that was just as long, just as involved, just as complex, and just as boring.

      • by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday October 22, 2012 @09:39AM (#41727961)

        Just as long? Show me a five day game of baseball that ends in a draw. And if you are going to count "best of X playoff" multiple games as a single game, then cricket has the 5 test series, for 25 days of playing also ending in a draw.

        • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

          by rubycodez (864176)

          you miss the point, subjectively a baseball games seems like SIX days, to a victim in the stands entrapped in a baseball game of reference.

          baseball, even more boring than fucking golf.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          What do you think the baseball pros do in Heaven all day?

          • by Anonymous Coward
            Play with their balls?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by seyyah (986027)

          Just as long? Show me a five day game of baseball that ends in a draw. And if you are going to count "best of X playoff" multiple games as a single game, then cricket has the 5 test series, for 25 days of playing also ending in a draw.

          What's so bad about a game ending in a draw? Seems like is an obsession in American sport that a winner be declared. Just look at what they did to hockey.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Dishevel (1105119)

            Sport = Competition = Winner/Loser
            In what backwards world do people live in where competition is not to decide winners and losers?

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by JustOK (667959)

              Pity the person who is incapable of only seeing two out of three possible outcomes in a competition.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Dishevel (1105119)

                There is no equality in competition.
                There are only Winners, Losers and being unwilling to put in the work to see which is which.

                • by JustOK (667959) on Monday October 22, 2012 @11:42AM (#41729159) Journal

                  If the competitors are equal, then there is equality in competition.

                  • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                    by Dishevel (1105119)

                    Nothing is equal.
                    Put 2 5lb bags of sugar on a scale.
                    One of them is heavier. Just because you do not want to invest in a scale that can tell the difference does not make them equal.
                    The truth is when you get to the level of professional athletes they are all so good you could just call them equal. We do not though.
                    We test them. A test which shows them as equal is a failed test.

                • There are only Winners, Losers and being unwilling to put in the work to see which is which.

                  Much of the time, the "winner" of a close competition is clearly decided by nothing more than a tiny variation in a random bounce.

                  So obsessing over the distinction is rather pointless. It's like getting all uptight about a coin toss: "Oooh! It came up heads! The team from my geographic region rulezzz!"

                • by nedlohs (1335013)

                  So what do you propose for say a boxing in match in which both boxers king hit each other at the same time and both are knocked out? Declare the guy who gets up first (even if it is in 2 minutes time) the winner? Wake them both up and have at it again? Both of those are making the decision on something that isn't supposed to be part of the sport, might as have them play a game of chess to decide.

                  In a two person swimming race both competitors drown, do you declare the guy who swam further the winner?

                  In crick

                • by BeanThere (28381)

                  I challenge you to indefinite rounds of Tic Tac Toe to test that theory.

              • by nedlohs (1335013)

                Pity the person incapable of seeing a tie as a fourth possible outcome.

            • by seyyah (986027)

              Sport = Competition = Winner/Loser
              In what backwards world do people live in where competition is not to decide winners and losers?

              So football, soccer, cricket, etc games that happen to end in a tie are not sport?

          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            Look what they did to hockey? The Europeans are the one's who screwed that one up. NHL hockey (in the playoffs) used to be over time until somebody scored. The Europeans and Olympic hockey use to go into a shootout after a period of overtime. The big problem came once shootouts were introduced into NHL hockey.
          • "Men, all this stuff you've heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war, is a lot of horse dung. Americans traditionally love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, big league ball players, the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americ

          • by nedlohs (1335013)

            There is nothing bad about it, in fact a side struggling to hold on for the draw is where the game is at its best.

            But you ignore that when trying to win a "my sport is more boring than your sport" argument.

          • by epine (68316)

            Just look at what they did to hockey.

            For as long as I've known the game, in the playoffs, the game continues until a winner is achieved through normal game play. By 3OT deep into the second round, it's more about survival than winning. That's why the diehards persist in their love of the sport.

            Only the regular season (so far) was goat ****ed by network television to violate the principle of zero-sumness. NHL head office is working hard (when they work at all) to make the game more of crap shoot. They do

          • by fm6 (162816)

            What's so good about a game that lasts five days without a result?

      • by MaWeiTao (908546)

        I caught a few games during the playoffs and I will admit that I found them fun to watch, but I'd attribute that to the fact that there was something at stake. In game 48 of a 160+ game season the sport is mind-numbing.

        It's why I'll never understand Americans who argue that soccer is boring. Compared to what? A bunch of guys standing around in an open field waiting for a ball to fly their way? Or the ponderous stop-start stutter of football? I'm not knocking those sports, but I do think people need a bit of

        • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Monday October 22, 2012 @12:18PM (#41729699)

          As someone who played soccer/football in children and youth leagues and then later officiated the sport for several years, I have to say that I find it boring to watch skilled players on TV or from the stands. And it's not for lack of action, since there is plenty of that. The problem with it is one of pacing and difficulty in appreciating what's going on.

          The athleticism and skill on display can be incredible in the sport, and when you're close to the action, it's fun to watch. But when you're up in high the grandstands or watching a zoomed out view on TV (which are the only ways most Americans have ever seen it), you can't appreciate the footwork that's being done, which is what makes the game so compelling to watch on a minute-to-minute basis. That leaves you with just the bigger plays, like breakaways, and the game doesn't hold up so well at that level when it comes to entertainment value. It basically boils down to sustained action for extended periods of time, interspersed by highlight-reel plays that are difficult to see, with very little of it actually amounting to anything. And with the ball changing sides so often, it's difficult to have a sense of when you'll see some hard pressure being applied or something important will happen. That's poorly paced as a source of entertainment and rather tiring to watch, kinda like a suspense movie that sustains the suspense for too long instead of raising and lowering it.

          I have similar problems with watching hockey, but at least hockey has people smashing into each other regularly, which has an appeal as a darker form of entertainment (i.e. the same thing that draws NASCAR viewers...which I still don't understand). That's also a mark against soccer/football, since its players are oftentimes prima donnas that fall over in an unsportsmanlike manner at the slightest touch. No one likes seeing that.

          Baseball has some similar issues as well, though it does have some advantages. It's easy to nerd-out on baseball since there are loads of statistics that actually matter and can make it far more interesting for those who are so-inclined. And as you get more runners on the bases, the tension steadily mounts, oftentimes culminating in a series of entertaining plays, with its natural breaks giving you time to read the situation and figure out where you should be looking for those plays. Of course, as the game reaches its end, you usually already know who the winner will be well in advance, thus undermining its enjoyment, and those highlight-reel plays are easy to miss for people who aren't as familiar with the sport, while much of the rest of the game is rather rote and boring.

          In contrast, while I'm not an American football fan, I do appreciate it as being a well-crafted form of entertainment. The entire game is structured so that it has rising and falling tension, regular opportunity for highlight-reel plays that happen at prescribed times and can be easily understood from a distance, natural breaks that allow you time to appreciate the players' tactical positioning and movement, and a sense of progression as the play methodically moves back and forth on the field in a massive game of tug-of-war. It's a game that you can go pretty deep into thought on, as strange as that might seem for such a brutish sport.

          Long story short, I do think that some games are inherently more entertaining than others, but I don't think that in any way establishes them as being superior. Personally speaking, while I'm not a fan of any of the sports I discussed, I'd rather go to a baseball game than the others, simply on account of the ambiance that is present at those games and the fact that there tends to be a stronger sense of good sportsmanship as a result of it being "America's pastime". The games tend to be laid back social outings, as opposed to the higher-energy (and sometimes downright aggressive) crowds you have in those other sports. My enjoyment of it is independent of the game's entertainment value.

          • by Cederic (9623)

            watching a zoomed out view on TV (which are the only ways most Americans have ever seen it), you can't appreciate the footwork that's being done,

            How many decades is it since you watched football on TV?

            There are multiple cameras at most televised games these days. You get close up footage of individual moves, sometimes during live play and always on replays.

            You don't even need them to see the legs of the little men moving, and realise and appreciate the skill and agility they're displaying.

            You need the wider tv view, and the seat midway up the stand in the stadium, to appreciate the work being done by the team, the off the ball runs and movement, the

            • There are multiple cameras at most televised games these days. You get close up footage of individual moves, sometimes during live play and always on replays.

              The zoomed in views in replays are not the same as being able to see that view live and in context, but to see those zoomed in views live, you run into the issue you discuss later about not being able to see the team. It's a Catch-22.

              You don't even need them to see the legs of the little men moving, and realise and appreciate the skill and agility they're displaying.

              Sure, I may know that something really cool just happened when I see someone left in the dust during a breakaway, but there's a big difference between knowing it happened and actually seeing the footwork that made it happen as it happens. Even you have to realize that the latte

              • by Cederic (9623)

                actually seeing the footwork

                I find that I can see a lot of detail, even on the 'zoomed out' views.

                For me though, the back and forth "nothing much happening" is an essential part of the game. There's a lot going on there, and it's not all just filler between the 'exciting' moments. I watch the whole game because I want to see it, see the runs being made, see the way the players are interacting, see whether the midfielder is passing forward, sideways or back to the defence, whether the fullbacks are getting forward (and whether the wing

                • I agree about it being an essential part of the game and that a highlights reel afterwards is not very fulfilling. Perhaps my use of that term was a bit misplaced. I merely meant to refer to plays that would later make the highlights reel, i.e. outstanding plays that capture immediate interest and are, in and of themselves, entertaining to view. Having those take place within the course of the game while also being able to see them well enough to appreciate them adds quite a bit to the entertainment value o

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          Americans are trained for bite-sized sports. Basketball/hockey are about the most continuous sports the US has. In fact, as I think about it in those terms, the less continuous the sport, the more it is liked by Americans.

          That's why soccer is hated. You don't compress the action into 360 10 second sections in 3 hours of otherwise boredom. Instead, you get 90 minutes of action evenly distributed (well, other than some sections are more exciting than others, but on a time scale are equal). Football give
    • by Anonymous Coward

      pop-POP!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22, 2012 @09:29AM (#41727881)

    I could not see the images (seems slashdotted), but recently I saw this very interesting slow motion video of light itself:
    here [ted.com]

    • by jfengel (409917)

      Those videos are interesting, but it's not quite taking pictures of light itself. Light's still too fast (and technology too slow) for that. What you see is a composite shot, of many repeats of the same experiment, with very high precision pictures taken of each particular instant.

      http://web.media.mit.edu/~raskar/trillionfps/ [mit.edu]

      They repeat the experiment every dozen nanoseconds. It takes an hour to take a picture of a nanosecond process. The inventors refer to it as "the world's slowest fastest camera".

  • It even is so slow that when I tried to visit the site provided by the URL... It timed out on me!
    Now, THAT is slow!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22, 2012 @09:43AM (#41727993)

    The bat doesn't break the way they describe.

    1) It doesn't bend in the middle, it bends close to the fixed end (where it is being held).
    2) What they describe is not the fundamental mode shape of a held bat. They are describing a free-free beam, but bats are usually held.
    3) It does bend similar to its fundamental mode shape. But it's not breaking due to vibration. It's being deflected by an impulse load and breaking.

    Simple engineering, and they got it wrong.

    • by paiute (550198)

      Simple engineering, and they got it wrong.

      You and your "real world". They are physicists.

      • You and your "real world". They are physicists.

        First, assume a spherical bat. In keeping with long-standing physics traditions, assume the spherical ball is a cube.

  • In some of the pictures, the bat looks like it is actually bent forward, toward the ball, when the ball hits it. Does anyone have an explanation for that? It's especially evident in the pic of the breaking bat. Is this just a motion thing that the camera doesn't catch well, or is there a physical reason that the bat would bend forward instead of backward? http://www.wired.com/rawfile/wp-content/gallery/fox-baseball/BROKEN-BAT.jpg [wired.com]
    • In some of the pictures, the bat looks like it is actually bent forward, toward the ball, when the ball hits it. Does anyone have an explanation for that? It's especially evident in the pic of the breaking bat.

      If the end of the bat is pushed backward then the middle would naturally bulge forward. The article addresses your question.

      • by asylumx (881307)
        The barrel of the bat is pointed FORWARD from where the handle is in most of the pictures.
  • by Tsunayoshi (789351) <tsunayoshi@@@gmail...com> on Monday October 22, 2012 @09:53AM (#41728069) Journal

    Would love to see some slow-mo pics of this, but I think we need more than 5000fps to see it:

    http://what-if.xkcd.com/1/ [xkcd.com]

    • by Hartree (191324)

      The campus has plenty of bandwidth, but the server it's on is one poor little box over in the nuclear physics lab. I'm just across campus and can't even get to the main nuclear physics site.

  • Ummmmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    You would THINK they would have added a video to the article.

    • by EnsilZah (575600)

      Animated GIFs man, that's the future of the web.
      And wait till they finish the spec for the Blink tag, shit's gonna be off tha hook, yo.

  • Perhaps I could learn to understand some of my exes behavior in bed with this technology...

  • Statistics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Machtyn (759119) on Monday October 22, 2012 @10:25AM (#41728405) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone else think that the game of baseball survived the 50's and 60's simply because math and science could utilize it to teach their subjects? I don't see baseball as a game, but of a boatload of data and statistics.
    • Does anyone else think that the game of baseball survived the 50's and 60's simply because math and science could utilize it to teach their subjects? I don't see baseball as a game, but of a boatload of data and statistics.

      No. The reason that Baseball thrived in the 50's and 60's was because the expansion teams in the west coast, the breaking of the black barrier and televised games and the press surrounding the "home-run" battles.

      I doubt in the 50's and early 60's, many math and science teachers used baseball to teach their subjects . For math at that era, all the rage was "new-math" which emphasized stuff like set-theory and alternate number bases (not statistics). The physics in baseball is more about complex "pitching"

  • Misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by Controlio (78666) on Monday October 22, 2012 @10:32AM (#41728461)

    They may use a camera that can run up to 5,000fps, but that's not the frame rate that was being shot.

    There is no reasonable way to shoot high frame rates at night in the lighting conditions that exist in ballparks. Remember that stadium lights only actually project light 60 times per second, and not all of them fire at the exact same time (different power phases, feeds from different transformers and substations, etc). So while in sunlight you can shoot at 5,000fps (though no one does because it's impractical with the limited amount of time you have between pitches to show a replay), in large-scale HID (et al) lighting environments you can't shoot much more than 600-1000fps and still achieve a reasonable image quality. (Note that a referenced article in TFA says they shot at 3,000fps, but I still have major doubts that the captured clips or even the original clip which aired on television was actually shot at 3k FPS.)

    And it's not just the frequency of the light, it's the amount. Zoom lenses lower the light that hits camera CCDs SIGNIFICANTLY. We experiment with high-speed cameras at long distances (center field pitch follow) quite regularly, and the result is incredibly underwhelming in anything other than direct sunlight. Though I will say, watching the movement and flight pattern of the pitch at high framerate in daylight is pretty spectacular.

    Here (pdf) [grassvalley.com] is an interesting whitepaper written by Grass Valley about the development of their super slow motion cameras, and the difficulties involved (flicker control, data rate, SNR, etc). The interesting reading begins on page 2. Note that this is NOT the camera used in the clips, the camera referenced is only doing 180fps - but you can extrapolate the complications presented in shooting 3000fps in HID lighting. (Side note: The referenced camera is the industry standard for smooth slow motion replay at 180fps. Ever notice that really smooth low-endzone NFL replay angle, or that definitive mid-1st MLB replay angle of the throw to first beating the runner? That's this camera.)

    And in case you were wondering, the actual camera they used is here [visionresearch.com], though it was modified by a third party company to run at a higher frame rate.

    • by GlobalEcho (26240)

      Assuming the ball travels about 150 feet per second (~100mph), and traveled 5 feet during the top clip, the animated GIF in the article covers about a 1/30 of a second. The GIF contains 37 frames, which puts a lower bound of about 1000fps on the source video. This is at the upper limit of the 600-1000fps range you cite.

      Of course, if they downsampled to make the GIF then they could have been well above 1000 fps. I'm curious what you think of their claims to be going over 10000fps for the world series.

      • The math is way more complicated than that. No 100mph pitch is ever 100mph when the ball hits the glove. The initial velocity is 100mph, but due to wind resistance and other forces it can slow 12mph easily before it reaches the mound, 60ft after its initial release. This is why before MLB's Pitchtrax system different radar guns always gave different readings - they would pick up the ball at different points on its journey and thus at different speeds (leaving out the variable of calibration). You can ac

        • by Pigeon451 (958201)

          So the ball might be going 10% slower at the catcher -- the calculation still gives a number near 1000 fps, good for a ballpark figure. Also, they may have recorded at a very high rate, but skip frames during playback to show reasonable detail at a reasonable speed. They may use the full frames to analyze the motions that we cannot see from the videos they have posted.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          You imply anyone would want to watch the full flight in 10k FPS. They want the first 90% in 10-100 FPS and the last 1% (in case of a hit) at 10k or the last 10% (no hit) in 1000 FPS max.

          However, I do work baseball, do live in Detroit, and will be working the World Series games here (3, 4, 5). I'm going to seek out some additional info directly from the guys who run it this weekend.

          Oh look, a security guard... (just kidding)

    • by bws111 (1216812)

      Why would the lights flicker at 60Hz? There are two zero crossings in every cycle, so why wouldn't they flicker at 120Hz? And if they are flickering, why doesn't that present a problem for regular TV? It seems to me there should be relatively stable, or slowly scrolling, black bars on the picture when the lights are 'out'. Or do they somehow manage to make the 'dark' period of the light fit entirely in the vertical retrace?

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        because the filament doesn't completely cool to dark in every crossing either. it's more of a very slight throbbing then a complete strobe.

        • by bws111 (1216812)

          Filament? I thought stadiums used some sort of arc (metal halide, sodium vapor, etc) lamps.

          And I am still not seeing why flicker is a problem at high speed, but not a normal TV speeds. A high speed camera may record flicker as whole frames with different levels of lighting, but a regular TV camera is going to have some artifact from the flicker (brighter and darker bands, etc).

          I would think that either the lamps are not flickering at all, or are flickering at such a high rate (much higher than 60Hz) that

          • by ArsonSmith (13997)

            closer to not flickering at all. Even the gas/arc lights are going to produce light longer than the phase change in the ac current.

            • by bws111 (1216812)

              That's what I thought. So why is this guy claiming that the lights are flickering at 60Hz, and that produces problems for high-speed cameras?

      • by fatphil (181876)
        Some video at 240Hz seems to indicate that indeed, my 50Hz electricity supply causes 100Hz flicker in an incandescent bulb. Which is good, as the science you mention would support that prediction:
        http://fatphil.org/images/winks/bristol@240.mov
    • by nabsltd (1313397)

      And in case you were wondering, the actual camera they used is here [visionresearch.com], though it was modified by a third party company to run at a higher frame rate.

      One thing I had noticed is that TBS and Fox did not use this camera on the wild-card or division series. It was very much missed, as my regional sports network does use this camera for every home game (and a few away games), and I had gotten use to freeze frames with no visible motion. The 180fps cameras can't come close to resolving a 3-inch baseball that moves 1500 inches per second.

    • by Mal-2 (675116)

      And it's not just the frequency of the light, it's the amount. Zoom lenses lower the light that hits camera CCDs SIGNIFICANTLY.

      Aside from internal reflections which will obviously increase with the number of elements necessary for a zoom lens, how does a zoom lens with an aperture of f/2.8 deliver less light to the CCD than a prime lens of aperture f/2.8? Or are you saying that prime lenses are available that are faster than the best zoom lenses (which is probably true)?

      Zoom lenses require many compromises. For a given level of light gathering, a zoom will be larger because it does not efficiently make use of all lens surfaces at a

    • by ibennetch (521581)

      You're right on. I'm a tape guy and I've used all of the X-Mo systems; you're absolutely right that the lighting and camera noise affect the framerate. If you're able to pull the 600-1000fps you mention for night games, your ballpark is much better lit than ours. Adjusting for minimal flicker (grrrr), we usually run 350fps for night games, actually very similar for basketball and hockey (360 helps the flicker there a bit more). Besides, more than that and it becomes very difficult to tell a story around tha

      • by ibennetch (521581)

        I've got to correct myself here -- I got an email from the gentleman who provides the x-mo systems and he informs me that they're indeed running extremely high framerates (4000 and 3000) for this particular show. I've worked with and met him before, and I'm pretty pleased that he spent some time in the comments of this article that's about his systems. I'm not sure how they're doing it, but without trying to sound crazy if anyone could figure it out, he's the guy. Anyway, I can admit that I was wrong about

  • We broke his server. Pieces of it spewed out all over the infield.
  • ...the importance of extension at the point of contact.
  • by xZoomerZx (1089699) on Monday October 22, 2012 @12:13PM (#41729617)
    Not only is a variable being ignored its nearly the central reason for all the hoopla in this story. For all the millions of dollars wasted on major league players you would think that holding the main tool of the game properly would be a given but its not. Old timers from the dawn days of baseball knew this but it seems to have been forgotten sometime in the past 50 years. If these yahoos that call themselves pros really wanted to pound the ball they would learn how to hold the damn bat properly and not in such a way that it flexes excessively or breaks, both of which is an incomplete transference of the energy from batter to ball. The bat has a grain like all wood and this grain runs along the side of the bat at 90 degrees to the label. Holding the bat with the label up or down causes this area of bat to be the main contact area. "With the grain" the bat is much stronger and stiffer transferring more of the batters' energy to the ball and of course flying further. "Across the grain" the wood is weaker and more likely to flex or break as the fibers deform. No one has ever broken a bat "with the grain." In the bat breaking sequence you can clearly see the label is nearly square on to the direction of the pitch. The other vids aren't as easy to see the orientation of the bat but the excessive flex is telling. This "researcher" needs to find a player who knows how to hold the bat properly and repeat said observations. Then he will discover what the old timers who played in cornfields knew a century ago.
  • by transcender (888893) on Monday October 22, 2012 @12:21PM (#41729769)
    The author originally wanted to use the New York Yankees as the focus... However, he was unable to capture enough examples of Yankee batters making contact with a baseball during the ALCS to complete the study.

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