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Pro Baseball Player Tech Avatars Could Be a Hit

Pro Baseball Player Tech Avatars Could Be a Hit

Hall of Famer Ted Williams once famously commented that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports. Although Williams—a .344 career hitter—made it look easy, he had a point. Hitting a round ball with a round bat squarely is difficult. It’s also an excellent example of some very entertaining applied physics.

名人堂的泰德威廉斯(Ted Williams)曾著名的評論過:運動界中最難的是打棒球。儘管威廉斯,一個平均打擊率0.344的職業打者讓它看起來很輕鬆,他的話是有道理的。用一支弧形的球棒不偏不移的打中一顆圓球是困難的。這同時也是一些極富娛樂性的應用物理的極佳例子。

No surprise then that professional baseball players are turning to science to improve their multimillion-dollar strokes. Some approaches focus on the neuroscience of hitting—the deep internal brain mechanisms behind seeing the pitch and reacting to it. But for more info about the swing itself, a sports tech company called Zepp Labs makes a sensor that can help break down those mechanics.


The sensor sits in the knob of the company’s so-called “Smart Bat” and uses two accelerometers and a three-axis gyroscope to measure bat speed, hand speed, attack angle and other factors. The sensor, which weighs only about eight grams, sends this info to a smartphone app via Bluetooth. The app can then use this data to have an onscreen avatar reenact the swing, in the hope that the batter can pick up some details and make the necessary adjustments. Zepp’s sensors can also be fitted to golf clubs and tennis rackets.


Never one to mince words, Ted Williams also once said that pitchers were “the stupidest people alive.” Hmm, maybe somebody could come up with a smart baseball to help them. Against any Ted Williamses out there, anyway.

—Larry Greenemeier


Gators Guard Birds That Nest Nearby

Florida’s Everglades are home to lots of large wading birds, like egrets and herons. But the ‘Glades also have lots of raccoons and possums. For the mammals, the birds’ nests are an all-you-can-eat buffet. And when an invasion occurs, “sometimes thousands of birds will abandon their nests, and just leave, and there’s littered remains of dead chicks and eggs that have been eaten.” Lucas Nell, an ecologist at the University of Georgia.


Nell says that, in order to seek protection from their furry foes, birds actually prefer to build their nests in plots of swamp with a resident alligator. In fact, in one study a graduate student planted fake alligators. And the birds seemed to prefer to build nests close to them. “Where there’s a water source, there are alligators, so it’s sort of this moat of protection around these colonies.”


Nell and his colleagues took to the Everglades at night, hunting for gators near and far from nests. “You have to use a spotlight and you see the little demon eyes shining out of the marsh.” They lassoed the gators, pulled them into the airboat, and took blood samples and body measurements.


Turns out the gators near bird colonies were 13 percent fatter. Which means this unusual arrangement may be mutually beneficial. The birds get protection. And the alligators? They feast on any chicks that get kicked out of the nest, as well as on the rest of the extra-productive swamp life, fertilized by all that guano. The findings are in the journal PLoS ONE. [Lucas A. Nell et al, Presence of Breeding Birds Improves Body Condition for a Crocodilian Nest Protector]

結果發現靠近鳥群的鱷魚較遠離的胖了百分之十三。這表示此種不尋常的安排可能皆有利於雙方。鳥兒受到保護,那鱷魚呢?牠們享用被踢出巢的雛鳥,還有其餘被鳥糞滋養以至於特別多產的沼澤生命。這項發現收錄於PLos ONE期刊(為一份同行評審的開放獲取科學期刊,由公共科學圖書館(Public Library of Science,PLOS)自2006年發行。PLOS ONE為全世界文章刊載數量最多的期刊。所刊載的文章包含科學及醫學各領域的基礎研究)。

There is one drawback for adult birds who stray too close to their bodyguard: Gators are not discriminating diners. “I liken it less to a bodyguard situation, more like keeping some psychopathic murderer in your yard, to keep out cat burglars.”

—Christopher Intagliata