The Physics Of The Curve Ball

Baseball season is upon us and we thought we’d share with you the awesome physics of the curve ball. Here’s a great video from Tetra Research of a curve ball in flight which will help us understand the forces acting on it better.

The red areas are under higher pressure and blue are under lower pressures. Watch the clip:

From F*ck Yeah Fluid Dynamics:

Because the ball is spinning forward, pressure forces are unequal between the top and bottom of the ball, with the bottom part of the baseball experiencing lower pressure. As with a wing in flight, this pressure difference between surfaces creates a force — for the curveball, downward.

This is known as the Magnus effect — as the ball is in motion through the air, the air produces lift perpendicular to the spin axis.

As the ball rotates around the ball’s horizontal axis, it creates additional pressure on the top of the ball, which makes it drop faster than gravity alone. If it was spinning in a different way, for instance around the vertical axis, the pressure would push it right or left.

This is the opposite of how lift works in a plane’s wing. It also shows up in soccer, tennis, and golf.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.