Nowadays, the fastest fastballs top out at around 106 m.p.h. Writing at his blog “What If?” (“Answering your hypothetical questions, with physics, every Tuesday”), Randall Munroe takes the quest for speed to its logical conclusion: What would happen, he asks, if you pitched a baseball at 90% of the speed of light -- around 600 million m.p.h.?
Uh oh. (Image: Antonio Vernon.)
Here's a preview:
The shell of x-rays and superheated plasma expands outward and upward, swallowing the backstop, both teams, the stands, and the surrounding neighborhood -- all in the first microsecond.
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Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
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Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.