Ben Ratner’s photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Chuck Nice and Gary O'Reilly in studio for World Series Slugfest.
Ben Ratner’s photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Chuck Nice and Gary O'Reilly in studio for World Series Slugfest.

World Series Slugfest, with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Chuck Nice and Gary O'Reilly in studio. Credit: Ben Ratner.
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About This Episode

Was it the weather? Are the balls being juiced? Are the batters? The 2017 World Series was the greatest slugfest in the Fall Classic’s history, capping a record smashing year for home runs. After 8 different batters hit home runs in a record-setting Game 2, Gary O’Reilly and Chuck Nice searched for scientific explanations with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and NASA weather expert and oceanographer William Patzert. Our investigation starts with the impact of weather on the Series, including Game 1’s 103°Fahrenheit. You’ll learn how every increase in temperature of 1°F causes the ball to travel 4-6 inches farther, but that dry air is more dense than moist air, so even though it feels thicker, it’s not. Explore how the temperature in Dodgers Stadium has increased almost 6°F over the past century, due to urban heat island effect and global warming. Next, our sports sleuths explore statistics, and whether this year’s slugfest was just a normal variation, or the latest entry in a half-century upwards trend in the number of home runs. Ponder whether the balls are “juiced 100%,” as Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel claims, or whether it’s the players themselves. We also examine the impact of increasing size and power of both hitters and pitchers, juxtaposed against smaller hitters that are currently putting up big numbers. You’ll learn how important bat speed is to hitting it out of the park, and how every increase of 1MPH drives the ball 8 feet farther. And while Gary, Chuck, Neil, and Bill don’t come to any firm conclusions about the causes of the all those home runs – and Neil and Bill disagree about the best angle from which to hit a home run – you’ll get plenty of scientific data to drop on your friends the next time you discuss the Slugfest of 2017.

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