How to hit a baseball travelling at the speed of light

It seems obvious that you can’t do this. XKCD does the math (or physics) to demonstrate that not only is it impossible, it’s also fatal for pitcher, batter, and probably the entire city…

“After about 70 nanoseconds the ball arrives at home plate. The batter hasn’t even seen the pitcher let go of the ball, since the light carrying that information arrives at about the same time the ball does. Collisions with the air have eaten the ball away almost completely, and it is now a bullet-shaped cloud of expanding plasma (mainly carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen) ramming into the air and triggering more fusion as it goes. The shell of x-rays hits the batter first, and a handful of nanoseconds later the debris cloud hits.”

mushroom cloud

It’s not all bad news though. The batter gets on base.

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.

I love this stuff. The XKCD “What If” blog is tackling similar questions on a weekly basis. Like trying to figure out how much power Yoda could generate via the Force.

Savour this: Pizza Math is deep…

Unequivocal proof that pizza is both delicious and a learning aid.

Via BoingBoing.

There’s a very similar shirt available on ThinkGeek

Man pens mathematical theory of singleness, gets girlfriend

You can get a PhD writing about just about anything these days. But applying an obscure mathematical theory about the probability of the existence of alien life to the question of your own singleness would appear to be about the limit. Surely.

But that’s what Peter Backus did. He took the Drake Equation – a mathematical analysis of the chance that alien life exists – to decide that there were only about 26 girls who would make appropriate partners for him in all of the United Kingdom.

The Drake Equation (penned in 1961 by Dr. Frank Drake) says N = R* x Fp x Ne x Fi x Fc x L. I’m not sure what that means, but it found that there could be 10,000 civilizations in our galaxy.

The Backus iteration of the Drake equation had the following findings:

His equation looked at the total number of women in the country, then narrowed it down using relevant factors including the number of women in London; the number of “age-appropriate” women (those aged between 24-34); women with a college degree; and those who Backus would find physically attractive.

In the paper Backus summarized that on a given night out in London there is a 0.0000034 percent chance of meeting a woman that meets his criteria and who is also interested in him. That makes his odds of finding a girlfriend only about 100 times better than finding an alien.

You can read his thesis here (pdf).

In a random turn of events he now has a girlfriend who meets all his criteria.

Become a mathlete, impress nobody

I don’t want to pretend to be all that interested in maths. I’m not. But I am interested in party tricks. Especially party tricks that make me look smart.

Here’s Wired’s collection of mathematics hacks to impress your friends (except the friends of yours who have maths degrees who don’t like jokes about e^x. That’s you Benny. Dan has a maths degree and he liked my jokes…

“To multiply, say, 11 x 32, add the digits of 32 (3 + 2 = 5) and insert the sum between them: 352. Numbers with two-digit sums use a slight variation: For 11 x 84 (8 + 4 = 12), add the 1 from 12 to the 8 and leave the 2 in the middle: 924. “

Pi Dish

Mmm, sweet tasty Pi. Here’s a dish with 88 digits of tasty, tasty mathematical awesomeness.

Lucky it’s only got 88 – because some computer nerd/mathematics nerd has just calculated it to 2.5 trillion decimal places. Which is useful for calculating the dimensions of incredibly, incredibly large circles. Really.

Life as a mathematical expression

Sister number two thought she was really clever when she first discovered vectors. “Everything is vectors” she said. And she would find ways to express everything in vector terminology. At least that’s how I remember that annoying phase of her life.

Here is a website that goes one better. Envisaging life and philosophical concepts in the form of mathematical equations.

So in this case the equation would be:

morenewmaths = sister number 2 + vectors + 1.

Like these.