Rhett Allain saw the Tampa Bay Rays’ pitcher, Oliver Drake, make an amazing pitch, and decided to try to code a mathematical model that would let him better understand the forces involved. Since physicists often start with simple models, Allain began by using Python to code a model for a constant-speed baseball. He then used his knowledge of physics and coding to add in the effects of factors such as gravity, air resistance, and finally the amount of spin that a pitcher might put into the ball.

Key Takeaways:

• The simplest possible model of a baseball involves having a computer calculate the motion of a constant-speed baseball at .01 second intervals to represent a simple, steady pitch.
• Once you’ve used python or a similar language to code a model for a constant-speed baseball, you can start accounting for the effect of additional forces, such as gravity and air resistance.
• Finally, once your ball and the air are accurately modeled, you can start coding in the effects of more advanced variables like the spin the pitcher puts on the ball.

“the Magnus effect is an interaction between the ball and the air”

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