“Baseball is science, people.”
That’s one fun soundbite from Bill Nye’s recent appearance on MLB Central, a daily live show hosted by MLB that’s all about professional baseball.
Nye, promoting his new book Unstoppable, was a guest this week and shared all kinds of geeky insights about the intersection of sports and science.
He kicked off the interview with a discussion about his old invention called the Fango, which is essentially a baseball bat with four “fangs” attached on the end that allow coaches to easily pick up baseballs when conducting hitting practice.
The product is more than a decade old, but it’s apparently still relevant.
“The key is in the detail — the length, the width, the fangs,” Nye said on MLB Central.
Nye, the personality behind the popular ’90s TV program, “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” also talked about the science behind how a baseball travels through air, noting the importance of stitches and how a pitcher holds a ball. He explained that the air flow on top of a baseball’s surface is smoother than the bottom because the stitches “cause molecules to tumble.”
“When they tumble, they break away from each other more easily,” he said. “The flow is actually smoother. It’s counterintuitive. It’s why you put dimples on a golf ball — at a certain air speed, it makes the air flow smoother.”
They also discussed how the Colorado Rockies use a humidor to warm baseballs before games due to the elevation in Denver.
“When wool fibers are moist, they soak up more energy,” Nye said. “You’re converting more of the moving energy into a tiny bit of heat, so the ball doesn’t go as far. This is a real effect. You add a little weight when you make it moist and it’s the springy-ness that is lost.”
Nye also told MLB Central that he’d like to see some MLB hitters use an aluminum bat and noted how Rickey Henderson was the only player who he thought did the head-first slide effectively.
Nye, a former Boeing engineer, moonlighted as a comedian and got his start on television on KING-TV’s “Almost Live” sketch comedy show, which gave birth to the “Science Guy” character. “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” produced by KCTS-TV in Seattle, started in 1993 and aired for five years.
Check out the MLB Central interviews below: