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Physical Effects of ball moving at 0.9c

I only just discovered this today:

http://what-if.xkcd.com/1/

I didn't know about it before. My question is simple: what do you think of Randall's analysis of the physics here? Is he "on the ball?"
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 Quote by cepheid I only just discovered this today: http://what-if.xkcd.com/1/ I didn't know about it before. My question is simple: what do you think of Randall's analysis of the physics here? Is he "on the ball?"
It starts off with magic to accelerate the baseball to 0.9c. Take away the magic and you realize you need a tremendous source of energy to get the ball up to that speed. Just think of the effort it takes to get individual particles up to that speed and you'll see that the explosion happens long before the ball even gets started.

 Mentor Yeah I understand that it takes a tremendous amount of kinetic energy to get a particle to 0.9c, let alone a macroscopic object. My question is if the *consequences* described are accurate. Nuclear fusion etc

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Physical Effects of ball moving at 0.9c

 Quote by cepheid My question is if the *consequences* described are accurate. Nuclear fusion etc
I would think so, since that is one of the things they do with particle accelerators, which is the reason they do it in vacuum. It would be a little fairer if they placed the experiment on the Moon and had astronauts in space suits so that the ball could actually travel some distance undisturbed. The article points out that the hitter would have very little time to react to the sight of the approaching ball. Of course, normal reaction times would make it impossible for him to swing the bat in time but if he anticipated the "pitch" and got the bat in place for the collision, then it would be a similar explosion.
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 Quote by HallsofIvy I believe the whole thing was meant humorously.
The questions being asked may not be very serious, but the point of the site certainly seems to be to use real physics to treat these frivolous topics, as accurately as possible:

 Recognitions: Science Advisor Staff Emeritus I wasn't particularly convinced by the claims of "fusion". What's supposed to be fusing with what to yield what product, exactly? And why fusion, rather than fission? I really don't have much intuition as to what happens if you bombard a baseball with .9c oxygen and nitrogen ions - and I don't think the author of the cartoons really knows either :-(. If he does, he didn't document it convincingly. In some sense, these are minor quibbles. The major energy input into the system is going to be the magic that accelerates the ball to .9c. And you can pretty much guess that the result is going to be a big nuclear-style fireball when that energy is released. Showers of various particles, ionizing radiation, and fireballs of the sort typically associated with nuclear weapons all seem to me to be reasonable predictions.

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 Quote by pervect I wasn't particularly convinced by the claims of "fusion". What's supposed to be fusing with what to yield what product, exactly? And why fusion, rather than fission?
Given the types of atoms in the air and the ball (mostly hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen), it would seem that fusion reactions are overwhelmingly more likely than fission reactions, if nuclear reactions are taking place at all.

As far as whether nuclear reactions would actually take place, the kinetic energy of the baseball at speed 0.9c corresponds to a temperature of about a trillion degrees, far higher than what is required to overcome Coulomb repulsion and allow nuclei to get close enough to each other to fuse. However, xkcd's analysis did leave out one key point: a trillion degrees may actually be too *high* a temperature for many fusion reactions to occur at significant rates (basically, the nuclei fly past each other too fast to stick together).
 Well the real question is which of the consequences are dominant, for example if i threw a ball at some mundane speed, 4m/s, the electrons inside are moving with respect to the batter, hence he should in principal feel a magnetic force. But as we know, such forces are tiny and unmeasurable, same concepts are present in this scenario. Now a few things come to mind. First is that the the space-time around the ball would be severely curved due to the energy-momentum of the ball, thus making everything after that uncertain as we do not understand physics in this scenario. Some very strange things happen when you have energy densities like that, some very very strange things.

 Quote by GarageDweller Well the real question is which of the consequences are dominant, for example if i threw a ball at some mundane speed, 4m/s, the electrons...
... and the protons ...
 Quote by GarageDweller ... inside are moving with respect to the batter, hence he should in principal feel ...
...no net force.

 i doubt you could find a baseball, or anything macroscopic that is perfectly neutral
 Recognitions: Gold Member I saw this on the 10th and posted in Random Thoughts. (I don't have time to start a thread and discuss or analyze such things) Then I noticed someone had already started another thread earlier in the day. Interesting problem. Perhaps we should call up CERN and get them to accelerate a single nitrogen nucleus to .9c and smash it into a baseball and see what happens. We can interpolate from there. This isn't just an interesting problem, this is a fun problem.

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 Quote by GarageDweller First is that the the space-time around the ball would be severely curved due to the energy-momentum of the ball
No, it wouldn't. Even if we leave out various subtleties in attributing "extra" spacetime curvature due to the ball's motion (briefly, curvature is not frame-dependent, but the ball's kinetic energy is), the relativistic gamma factor at 0.9c is a little more than 2, so the ball's total energy is a little more than twice the energy equivalent of its rest mass. The curvature due to the ball's rest mass (given the ball's volume) is negligible; a little more than twice negligible is still negligible.

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 Quote by OmCheeto I saw this on the 10th and posted in Random Thoughts. (I don't have time to start a thread and discuss or analyze such things) Then I noticed someone had already started another thread earlier in the day. Interesting problem. Perhaps we should call up CERN and get them to accelerate a single nitrogen nucleus to .9c and smash it into a baseball and see what happens. We can interpolate from there. This isn't just an interesting problem, this is a fun problem.
I'm sure collisions at much higher speeds have been done, for instance in the relativistic heavy ion collider (RHIC). No idea of what the results are though.

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 Quote by pervect I'm sure collisions at much higher speeds have been done, for instance in the relativistic heavy ion collider (RHIC). No idea of what the results are though.
I was trying to comprehend a paper last night, but it's been so long since I've studied particle physics, I don't remember how to convert Gev's to velocity.

 Secondary charged particles emitted at 13° from a platinum target bombarded by 4 GeV nitrogen ions have been observed as a function of momentum and time-of-flight. Preliminary analysis indicate a rather surprisingly copious production of α-particles, 3He, 3H and deuterons relative to protons.
hmmm... Can the breaking up of atomic nuclei with a particle accelerator be referred to as "fission"?

ps. I just found some equations on an old thread, but when I did the math, v came out to be zero. Naprawde, ja nic nie wiem....
Wait! I think I've figured out where I went wrong.

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