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By William Greco
Warrington, Pa.
July 2009
Executive Summary
When a baseball falls through air, it’s inertia is opposed by air friction.
The ball will achieve a terminal velocity when the mass of the ball matches
the air friction forces which oppose it. To reach the terminal velocity the ball
must have reached a minimum altitude above the local elevation.
The following equations, charts and examples explore the
“Terminal Velocity Of a Falling Baseball”.
Main
The mass (W) of the baseball must match the aerodynamic forces D (air
friction) to reach terminal velocity.
2
D
D
W = D (equation1)
W = mass of the baseball
D = aerodynamic drag
Drag is represented by:
p
D = C V A (equation2)
2
where:
C = Coefficient of drag (0.43 for a s
 

\ .
2
D
phere)
p = air density taken at sea level
V = Velocity
A = surface area of the sphere (1/2 of the total area)
Substituting W for D we have:
p
W = C V A (equation2a)
2
 

\ .
Terminal Velocity Of a Falling Baseball page 2 of 6
By William Greco
Warrington, Pa.
July 2009
( )
( )
( )
( )
( )
( )
( )
2
D 2
D
2
D 2
D
D
2
D 2
D D D
Solving for V (velocity):
C P V A
p
W = C V A =
2 2
Multiply both sides by 2:
C P V A
2W = (2) = 2W = C P V A
2
Divide both sides by C P A:
C P V A
2W 2W
= = V =
C P A C P A C
 

\ .
( )
( )
D
P A
Take the square root of both sides :
2W
V = (equation3)
C P A
Characteristics of a Baseball Table1
Variable Metric System InchPound System
C
D
0.43 0.43
W 1.39 newtons 10.05 poundals
P 1.226 kg/m
3
0.0766 lbs/ft
3
A 0.00877 m
2
0.0944 ft
2
Note:
A represents ½ of the baseball sphere because only half of the sphere
represents the frontal area that is acted upon by the air resistance.
Terminal Velocity Of a Falling Baseball page 3 of 6
By William Greco
Warrington, Pa.
July 2009
A poundal is a unit of force equal to the force that imparts an acceleration of
1 foot/sec/sec to a mass of 1 pound; equal to 0.1382 newtons
1 newton (N) is defined as the force required to give a mass of 1 kilogram
an acceleration of 1 m s
2
.
( )( )
1 pound of force = 4.45 newtons, average baseball weighs = 5 oz
5 oz 1.39
= 0.313 lbs 4.45 = 1.39 newtons = 10.05 poundals
oz
0.1382
16
lb
Applying table1 and equation3 the terminal velocity of a baseball
in the metric (SI) system International :
( )
( )
( )
D
2 1.39
2W m
V = = ( ) = 24.521
C P A 0.43 1.226 0.00877 sec
m ft
24.521 = 80.44 = 54.84 mph
sec sec
Applying table1 and equation3 the terminal velocity of a baseball
in the InchPound (IP) system :
( )
( )
( )
D
2 10.05
2W ft
V = = ( ) = 80.4
C P A 0.43 0.0766 0.0944 sec
ft
80.4 = 54.8 mph
sec
Terminal Velocity Of a Falling Baseball page 4 of 6
By William Greco
Warrington, Pa.
July 2009
The baseball must achieve a minimum altitude or it will not be able to reach
terminal velocity on the way down. The following expressions allow the
calculation of this minimum altitude.
2 2
2
V = U + 2gS (equation4)
where:
S = distance
g = gravitational constant
U = initial velocity
gt
S = (equation5)
2
where:
S = distance
g = gravitational constant
t = time in seconds
( )
( )
2
2
2
2
2 2 2 2 2
2
Substituting 80.4 ft_sec for V into equation4: 80.4 = U + 2gS
80.4 = 6464 6464 = U + 2gS
subtract U from both sides = 6464U = U + 2gS  U 6464U = 2gS
6464U
Divide both sides by 2g :
2
÷
( )
2
2
2
2gS 6464U
= S = (equation6)
2 2
U = 0 at the point where the ball begins to drop, and g = 32.2 ft_sec
64640
S = = 100.4 feet
2 32.2
g g g
÷÷÷
The baseball must be at least 100.4 feet above the ground to reach it’s
terminal velocity.
Terminal Velocity Of a Falling Baseball page 5 of 6
By William Greco
Warrington, Pa.
July 2009
To calculate the time that it will take for a baseball to reach it’s terminal
velocity during a fall from the height that was calculated on page 4 of 6,
equation5 must be used.
( )
2
2
2
and 2
this is what you get
gt
S = solving for t (time) :
2
gt
multiply both sides by 2 2S = 2
2
2S gt 2S
divide both sides by g = t =
take the square root of both s
and
g g g
÷÷÷
÷÷÷÷÷÷÷ ÷
( )
2
2S
ides t =
plugging in our g = 32.2 ft_sec and distance of 100.4 ft altitude
2 100.4
t = = 2.497 seconds to fall from 100.4 feet and reach terminal velocity
32.2
g
÷
Terminal Velocity Characteristics of a Baseball
Terminal Velocity 80.4 ftsecond
Minimum Altitude to required to reach Terminal Velocity 100.4 feet
Time from altitude to reach terminal velocity 2.497 seconds
When the baseball reaches the ground if traveling at it’s terminal velocity
it will have a force of :
ft 5 oz
80.4 x = 25.1 foot pounds
oz
sec
16
lb
Terminal Velocity Of a Falling Baseball page 6 of 6
By William Greco
Warrington, Pa.
July 2009
William Greco 2404 Greensward N. Warrington Pa. w2gre@verizon.net