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Lessons For Physics Teachers, In Baseball

It's common for science teachers to try to craft classroom lessons out of things that students see every day and can easily understand. I remember a lot of the science teachers I had during my school days talking about the physics of baseball, probably with good reason. It's a sport that's rich with opportunities to discuss science.

Kathy Willens/AP

I was reminded of this when I read a new interview in Scientific American with Alan Nathan, a physics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign who has studied science's connection to the sport. In the interview, Nathan discusses the topspin on a ground ball, the physics of corking a bat, and the art of pitching (including the mysterious action on the knuckleball) among other topics. Lots of ideas for lessons for teachers here.

Nathan also has his own Web site, a sort of online library on the physics of baseball, with lots of great resources. For science teachers who can't get enough, check out this book The Physics of Baseball, by Robert K. Adair.

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