What happens when a supersonic baseball hits something?

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/09/08/what-happens-when-a-supersonic.html


What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?

  • Ellen McManis


A careful reading of official Major League Baseball Rule 6.08(b) suggests that in this situation, the batter would be considered “hit by pitch”, and would be eligible to advance to first base.


He also has a longer version that shows more details of the construction, and some initial test firing. Having watched the first one, where the test shot (at much lower pressure, and without the evacuated barrel) made a fine deformation in an aluminum plate target, I was initially surprised when the ball vaporized, but besides a little polishing of the surface, didn’t seem to damage the target. Then he mentions that its two spaced layers of 25 mm thick steel plate. It was also amusing how looking at some of the photos, the cover of the ball may have started to peel off before impact.

Now I want them to turn up a cylinder of wood, something dense, with spiraled grain like hornbeam, or lignum vitae, and see how that fares.


Supersonic Baseball Cannon: band name.

Having watched all the way through the video; it is lovely to see people working out stuff with sticks and cameras. :kissing_heart:


That was awesome! Just blew itself apart!

Shooting is fun! Capturing it on high speed camera is fun!


Or alternate title of a Kinks song.


Makes me think of one of my buddies in my late teens. Not satisfied with an ordinary tennis-ball mortar, he poured a concrete breech block, TIG welded many cans together for a barrel and wound them with fiberglass tape, and used an M-80 as the lift charge. It was rather a disappointment. What came out the barrel was a huge cloud of noxious black smoke smelling of burnt rubber. The tennis ball was the weak link.

I think we convinced him that replacing the tennis ball with a lacrosse ball was a Really Bad Idea.

It’s a wonder that engineers survive adolescence.


I wonder if a potato would survive a trip down the barrel, or would it emerge from the gun mashed?


That moment the ball strikes the wall I think it temporarily transforms into, does anybody remember mad balls?

I’d be mad too!


Came to post the same thing. I love his answers to such crazy questions.

1 Like


Uh, yeah, fuck those guys…
…on principle.

You’d probably want to put cream and butter in there as well and have a second cannon loaded with a slow cooked lamb shank (red wine jus) offset in time to fire a few milliseconds later. Oh and a really sturdy plate for the target!

1 Like

Oh wow, the wave of nostalgia you just unleashed nearly knocked me off my feet!

I had the mummy one. I wonder what happened to that?

1 Like

I need some questions answered:
How much does this production cost? I’m thinking $30,000 (and even this assumes he has free use of the metal shop). Just to rent the cameras, just to set the Schlieren view costs thousands.
What do you do with this after you’re done with it?

Yes, this! I wonder this all the time about these elaborate experiments or things that take tremendous effort and resources to build, and it’s essentially for a one time use. I’ve encountered stage sets for high school plays and marching band performances where the first thing I wonder, after (usually) the dad shows off his dozens/hundreds of hours of handiwork building the thing, is “What are you gonna do with that after the show?”.

This is probably why I’d never go to Burning Man. I know people who build fantastic living spaces with indoor plumbing, and after just a few days, it all comes down again. I have never been able to square that in my mind.

Back to this video, at the end, he’s pretty up front that he wants to do experiments without any sort of time commitments, create awesome videos “free from obligation”, as he puts it (at around 22:06). Oh, wouldn’t we all…!

I think that guy owns the camera… I could be wrong, but he’s done lots of high-speed in the past.

(You would think he would make a Lexan screen for filming closer to the impact zone…)

But, anyway. What do you do with it now??

HAHHAHAHAHA… oh man. Evil grin. Find more shit to shoot out of it! Start with more every day objects. How about a foot ball? Soccer ball? Rubber band ball. Jar full of pennies.

Then move up to the exotic stuff. How about a sabot with a banana in it? Experiment with 3d printed or maybe aluminum milled aerodynamic shapes. Point it up. See if you can get the same height as like a hobbyist rocket?

Hit the reverse polarity switch and see how fast you can suck something into the canon.

I am sure this guy had a dozen other things he wants to do other than the baseball.

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.