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I'm doing my science fair project comparing aluminum and wooden bats. I want to see which one will hit the ball farther. Any ideas on how to set up a really good experiment? How about some information about how the bats are made to make the difference, if there is one, in how far the ball travels?
Question Date: 2004-04-22
Answer 1:

I had to do some research on this, since I'm more of a football fan,myself... ;-) It looks like it would be very difficult to set up a really good experiment comparing the two, since the speed of the bat depends on a lot of factors that are difficult to control in an experiment.

Here's what I've learned about the advantages of the two types of bats:
Aluminum bats are lighter, which makes it easier to swing faster and also makes it easier to control the bat. This can even give the batter a chance to wait longer before swinging and make some last-second adjustments to a pitch.

Wooden bats, on the other hand, are heavier, which makes it harder to achieve the same bat speed and harder to control the motion of the bat. The trade-off is that the wooden bat's collision with the ball is more effective than the aluminum bat's collision. A wooden bat moving at the same speed as an aluminum bat will make the ball go farther, since the wooden back has less "recoil" and also more momentum.

Even if the bats had the same overall weight, the weight of the wooden mass is mainly in the barrel, while the weight of the aluminum bat is more evenly distributed over the whole bat. The weight of the bat in the region where the ball is hit would still be much higher in the case of a wooden bat, so it would still provide a more effective hit. What that all means in the end is that what bat is best to use is pretty much a matter of personal preference.

Aluminum bats are easier to control and to swing faster, but wooden bats have the potential to hit the ball more effectively and thus make it go farther.

In an experiment withthe bats moving at the exact same speed, thewooden bat should win, but in a real-world situation, the increased control for an aluminum bat can allow the batter to make a "cleaner" hit and send the ball farther. Hope that helps out!

Good luck in the science fair!

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