Science Dimensions On A Baseball Diamond
By Enrico Uva | March 14th 2012 01:53 AM | 6 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

I majored in chemistry, worked briefly in the food industry and at Fisheries and Oceans. I then obtained a degree in education. Since then I have...

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Atomic and astronomical scales are not in the least intuitive. Powers of 10 tables have often been used to contrast the size of stars with the radii of atoms, but since spring training has arrived, why not use the baseball diamond to mentally animate some of the baffling dimensions of science?

If you reduce the Earth to the size of an eraser (1 cm) at the end of a pencil at home plate, the sun (109.7 times wider) becomes a 1.1 meter beach ball, 117 meters away. That would be about a meter past the left or right center field wall at Dodger Stadium. Interestingly, in this model,  the next nearest star would still be triple the distance (31 000 km) between Alaska and India. From a mass perspective, if the earth's mass is reduced to that of a baseball, the sun would weigh as much as 644 spectators, averaging 75 kg each.

If you turn the pencil around and make a one millimeter dot on home plate to represent a proton*, well, if you scale up such a small particle to those dimensions, you will find a hydrogen  atom's lone electron past first base, 35.3 meters away. This reveals what Rutherford demonstrated over a century ago, that an atom is mostly empty space, just like the baseball field is mostly empty if fielders are not mobile. If the mass of the electron is scaled up to that of a baseball, then the proton, which is 1836 times more massive, acquires the mass of all the bats in the clubhouse (285).

What if the Milky Way galaxy is scaled down to the size of Dodger Stadium? How small does the Earth become? Well, the Earth would only be
6 X 10-12 m wide, about 10 times smaller than the smallest atom. How small is a baseball player rendered? To about the upper limit for the size of a quark. But we're getting too abstract. If we scale Prince Fielder's mass down to that of an H1V virus, how massive does the Earth become? As massive as a blue whale.

* Obviously the 1 mm proton analogy is not related to the 1 cm Earth!

Fun article.  And you used Chavez Ravine, which any true baseball fan knows is the ultimate baseball destination.
Thanks. I had fun writing it!
Light goes about a foot a second from the eraser, arriving at the moon after one second, still needing eight minutes to "a meter past the left or right center field wall". That is what I should have thought about that day I was silly enough to join some natives going to the Dodger stadium for some immersion in the local culture, because trying to figure out those numbers on the display boards is impossible. ;-)
A Scotsman goes to his first baseball game with an American friend and sees that every time the ball is hit, the crowd stands up and yells "Run!" so he dutifully stands up and yells "Run!" as well.

Then a batter watches the baseball go by four times and starts walking to first base.  The Scot jumps up and yells "Run!" but no one else in the crowd does, they just look at him strangely.  "No," his friend explains, "he got a walk because he got four balls."

The Scot looks at him, eyes with wide surprise, and then jumps up and yells, "Then walk with pride, man!"
:) ... One thing that helped our dad-son relationship when I was 18 or 19 is that over the course of one baseball season, I actually got my father, a European, to understand, appreciate and follow baseball!
That's no easy feat! It's that training that sometimes gets me to convert voodoo teens to science!

Unfortunately the Expos are no longer in Montreal...

A link between the Dodgers and Montreal: in the 1940's and 1950's the Montreal Royals were the farm team for the Dodgers. Both Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider briefly played for the Royals, and the latter later returned to work as a broadcaster for the Expos.
...and the Dodgers traded Pedro Martinez to Montreal for Delino Deshields, one of the worst trades of all time.  Before they moved, Montreal was consistently good - their former players could fill out an All-Star team in the 1990s.  If the currency parity present now had existed then, the Expos would be successful and profitable.