Play ball!

Q: Major League Baseball is preparing to host the first exhibition game on the moon. The field’s dimensions will be the same as on Earth. To prepare, the fastest pitcher from each team will don spacesuits and take turns throwing from the mound at Wrigley Field. They want to make sure they can achieve their normal release angles in the bulky suits, since that’s a key to throwing strikes. What would you tell MLB about the physics of this idea?

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FROM THE MARCH ISSUE: We asked you how to determine whether a sample of stainless steel has magnetic properties. There was no winner this month, but we learned that we were part of an interesting experiment by Barclay Brown, an AIAA member in Florida with an expertise in artificial intelligence. He asked the question of ChatGPT 4, which provided the following answer. It was the best we received. We’ve adjusted our ground rules (at left) to ask that you not use AI in the future.

“In this high-stakes scenario, the avatar, a materials scientist turned action hero, needs to identify whether a sample of stainless steel is magnetic to save their treasured book. Without diving into complex jargon that could risk the book’s safety, the avatar focuses on a key visual cue under the microscope: the structure of the steel itself. Stainless steel can be either magnetic or nonmagnetic, depending mainly on its composition and the arrangement of its atoms. The avatar knows that if the steel has a grainy, crystalline structure, it’s likely a type called ferritic or martensitic stainless steel, both of which are magnetic. These types of steel have a simple, uniform arrangement of atoms that allows magnets to align with them easily, making them magnetic. On the other hand, if the steel appears smoother and more homogenous, it might be austenitic stainless steel, which is nonmagnetic. This type of steel has a different atomic arrangement that doesn’t allow magnets to align as easily, rendering it nonmagnetic. So, in a language everyone can understand, the avatar would explain, “If this steel looks uniform and grainy, like tiny, closely-packed crystals under the microscope, it’s likely magnetic. If it looks smooth and even, it’s probably not. The difference is all in how the tiny particles inside are arranged, which changes whether or not it can stick to a magnet.” This explanation avoids technical jargon while clearly conveying the essential information needed to determine the steel’s magnetic properties.”

Play ball!