The science of a baseball’s flight | SportsPulse

(ambient music) (ball shooting) – My name is Lloyd Smith, I’m a professor in the school of mechanical
and materials engineering. I’ve been at Washington State University for 23 years. I’ve been testing bats
for most of that time and we’ve been a certification center for bats for about 16 years. But eventually we started looking at the aerodynamics of
baseballs and softballs. No one had every really studied it really carefully, tried
to really understand how the lift and drag
worked as it would in play and major league baseball suddenly has a problem with offense in their game. And as they went through their data they looked at the information they had in ball tracking and in play it became apparent that
the drag of the ball, principally had changed and it had gone down, and that decrease was the reason why the offense had increased. So they contacted us and
we’ve started testing principally drag of baseballs. So this is our piston style cannon. If you were the to
fire, or load the cannon you would take the ball and
load it inside of this grip and right now then it’s
set to have backspin. If you wanted topspin
you rotate that around if you want sidespin you rotate it there. So you can control your spin orientation and then you close the breach, hit fire, the ball takes off and you’ve got a shot. (clicking) – Five. (balls shooting) – We measured the speed in this tunnel at three different locations and then from that change in speed and location we’re able to calculate what we call the coefficient of lift and the coefficient of drag. And it turns out that very small changes in the drag coefficient can have a very large change
in the offense of the game. So that the change that we’re looking for is on the order for about 1%. But with that change you
get a significant change in the ability of the
hitters to hit home runs. (ambient music)

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