Real Answers to Ridiculous Questions

Randall Munroe, author of the ever-popular geeky stickman webcomic XKCD, is also a physics & math nerd. So he gets a lot of weird hypothetical questions from his readers. Now he’s starting to answer them, and it’s pretty entertaining.

Here’s a snippet from his first question, What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?

“After about 70 nanoseconds the ball arrives at home plate. The batter hasn’t even seen the pitcher let go of the ball, since the light carrying that information arrives at about the same time the ball does. Collisions with the air have eaten the ball away almost completely, and it is now a bullet-shaped cloud of expanding plasma (mainly carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen) ramming into the air and triggering more fusion as it goes. The shell of x-rays hits the batter first, and a handful of nanoseconds later the debris cloud hits.”

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