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Play Ball! Aluminum vs. Wooden Baseball Bats

Ever wonder why Major League ball players only swing with wooden bats and not aluminum? Well, they can't use aluminum. Mark McGuire hits the ball 500 feet, but with an aluminum bat he'd get 700 feet easily.

This difference between the two bats has to do with the fact that when a ball collides with an aluminum bat, it loses less kinetic energy than it does when it collides with a wooden bat. Aluminum is more elastic than wood. When a ball hits an aluminum bat, the aluminum deforms but then immediately springs back, basically 'trampolining' the ball outward. The ball maintains most of its kinetic energy.

When ball and wooden bat collide, the wood is permanently deformed. In other words, it doesn't spring back and catapult the ball. If you've ever looked closely at a wooden bat after a game, you'll notice that it's dented where the ball hit.

So, when a ball hits a wooden bat, some of its kinetic energy is transformed into the energy used to dent the bat. In other words, the more give a bat has, the more kinetic energy it absorbs. If the players used a bat made of wet clay, it would absorb almost all the ball's kinetic energy, and it wouldn't go anywhere. Making for a pretty boring game.

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