JF Ptak Science Books Post 2348
If I was a Nazi going back in time and given the opportunity to assassinate five allied leaders to change the direction of the war, I'm pretty sure that one of my choices would be Vannevar (that's "van ee var" Bush (not related to you-know-who).1 He was the head of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) for the U.S. for World War II, which is saying A LOT. It was his responsibility to determine where and how to apply effort and brainpower and money for the best outcome to win the war--and he did a fabulous job. Wasted effort/money/power/intelligence costs a lot, especially during wartime, and Bush did an absolutely superior job in performing this task. He was also a great engineer, a fine creator of analog calculators; he was a visionary and often is referred to as the grandfather of the internet; he was VP of MIT, and many other things, on and on.
However, in his grand opus one thing he wrote was that baseball was not a scientific game.
I'm pretty sure he was joking around because the game is all angles of motion and repose (and a lot of the later), of effort and response, and in the immortal words of the Great Beakman (of TV science show for kids fame), "everything goes somewhere".
Bush chose to leave a little mystery in the game when he wrote about it in Science is Not Enough, (1967) in the essay "When Bat Meets Ball". The pitch, the crack of the bat,the flight of the ball, the outfielder turning instantly to get to the place where he thinks he needs to be, calculating all of this on the fly so that he can catch the ball, is in some sense like tracking enemy aircraft or an ABM. The outfielder, running along, has sorta figured out the velocity of the pitch and the angle at which the ball leaves the bat, figuring out acceleration, elevation, and manipulates it all in his head to sand in a certain grassy spot to be in exact location to interfere with the ball's response to all of the vertical and horizontal displacements and the work of gravity to return it to its initial altitude of 0 (+the distance of the glove to the ground). Which is all pretty cool stuff, and it happens it the rain or wind or whatever conditions and perhaps with a hurt ankle, all of which get tossed into the equations.
This is all beautifully addressed in a short article called "Catching a Baseball", by Seville Chapman of the Cornell Aeronautical Lab in the October 1968 issue of the American Journal of Physics. Dr. Chapman also offers up the following figure, which is helpful and pretty, but which would have bounced off completely of the invisible shield of fielding mediocrity that enveloped the otherwise fantastically gifted Manny Ramierez (or Ted Williams or any other number of great hitters who were not so much interested in fielding because it wasn't hitting).
Anyway, here's the illustration from the Chapman article:
1. Some of the others would have ot be Churchill (probably my first choice, because he held everything together from 1940-1942 and created an effective war machine...without him the war may well have been lost, well before the U.S. would have become involved; also of course F.D.R., and probably Eisenhower for his superior handling of the Invasion and for the push east. I am not sure about who I might choose on the Soviet side. I wouldn't choose them in the first rank, but I'm not sure who I would choose first to do in between Montgomery and Patton--it is easy to neglect Montgomery for all of the obvious reasons, but when everything is said and done he was very effective and successful given his own plodding and unpleasant way)...