Posts tagged ‘math’

Rulebook Specs for Home Plate are Impossible

By Chad Upton | Editor

The earliest known reference to “baseball” comes from a 1744 British publication called, “A Little Pretty Pocket-Book” by John Newbery. At the time, the field was triangular and used poles instead of bases. This game was brought to America sometime before 1791, when the first American reference is found in a town bylaw for Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Of course, the game has changed a lot since then. The infield is has gome from triangular to “diamond” (square) shaped. Home base was originally a round metal plate, which is why it is often called “home plate.” Home plate became a square shape in the 1870s, making it jus t like the rest of the bases.

The rear point of home plate sat at the intersection of the baselines from first and third bases. Although this point never changed, in the year 1900, home plated went from four sides to five.

The front of the base was squared in relation to the pitcher. This was done to make it easier for the pitcher to see the left and right edges of the base. When the base was a square, there was only a small point on each side, which was difficult to see and could easily be covered with dirt. Having a long edge rather than a small point also makes it easier for the umpire to see if the ball passes over the base and make an appropriate call.

The official Major League Baseball rulebook specifies the dimensions for home plate. They say it should be a 12 inch square with two corners filled in so one edge (facing the pitcher) is 17 inches. It also specifies that the two sides should be 8.5 inches. That sounds good on paper, but that is an impossible shape to create — according to Pythagorean theorem. If the 12 inch sides are supposed to be at a right angle to each other, then the hypotenuse would be 17 inches according to the rulebook. Mathematically, the hypotenuse would have to be 16.9 inches.

Some would say it’s a small difference, but it’s actually a large difference in modern day manufacturing tolerances. Either way, the point stands: nobody can create a home plate with the exact specifications set in the rulebook.

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Sources: MLB.com, wikipedia (baseballhome plate), MAA

Photo: JC Derr (cc / graphics overlaid)

May 9, 2011 at 2:00 am 13 comments

There Are Only 14 Possible Calendar Configurations

At the beginning of every year, I get a tropical island wall calendar. During the winter, it makes the days seem warmer; during the summer, it inspires me to enjoy the long sunny days.

Until a few days ago, my January 2010 calendar was really small. I hadn’t bought a new calendar yet, so I was squinting at the tiny January 2010 layout in the corner of my December 2009 calendar.

If only I kept my 1999 calendar, I could have used that this year.

You see, there are only 14 possible calendar configurations. This year, January first was a Friday and next year, it’s a Saturday. In 2012 it’s a Sunday, but in 2013 it’s a Tuesday. (more…)

January 28, 2010 at 12:15 am 2 comments


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