Supersonic Baseball Hitting A Gallon Of Mayo Is Great Flow Visualization

Those of us who enjoy seeing mechanical carnage have been blessed by the rise of video sharing services and high speed cameras. Oftentimes, these slow motion videos are heavy on destruction and light on science. However, this video from [Smarter Every Day] is worth watching, purely for the fluid mechanics at play when a supersonic baseball hits a 1-gallon jar of mayo. 

The experiment uses the baseball cannon that [Destin] of [Smarter Every Day] built last year. Ostensibly, the broader aim of the video is to characterize the baseball cannon’s performance. Shots are fired with varying pressures applied to the air tank and vacuum levels applied to the barrel, and the data charted.

However, the real glory starts 18:25 into the video, where a baseball is fired into the gigantic jar of mayo. The jar is vaporized in an instant from the sheer power of the collision, with the mayo becoming a potent-smelling aerosol in a flash.

Amazingly, the slow-motion camera reveals all manner of interesting phenomena. There’s a flash of flame as the ball hits the jar, suggesting compression ignition happened at impact with the jar’s label. A shadow from the shockwave ahead of the ball can be seen in the video, and particles in the cloud of mayo can be seen changing direction as the trailing shock catches up.

The slow-motion footage deserves to be shown in flow-visualization classes, not only because it’s awesome, but because it’s a great demonstration of supersonic flow phenomena. Video after the break.

22 thoughts on “Supersonic Baseball Hitting A Gallon Of Mayo Is Great Flow Visualization

  1. YES. They have a checklist for everything that needs to be right before a test run. And not only do they have it, but Destin makes a point of including that in the video. That guy really IS smarter.

    I used to work on a TV show that had a checklist, and it really did help. It was a little bit like the Cider House Rules — the list grew over time, as we discovered new ways of screwing up. But for every new item on the list, there were countless repeated errors we DIDN’T have to make.

  2. All measurements in imperial units, for US viewers.
    It should be good to have some subtitles in ISO units, so that the rest of the world could understand how insane this machine is :-)

    1. In the US, most science education is in metric. I have a PhD from an American university and am only familiar with old-style units in the context of everyday things like outdoor temperature, the weight of adults or the quantity of vegetable produce… I have no reference for what old units mean outside of those contexts. A better way to do it would be to use metric, but also add comparisons to everyday items.

    2. Yeah, I noticed that, and it lowered my opinion of Destin a fraction. The Internet in general and YouTube very specifically has made the world a smaller place, and I would expect American content makers to provide some leadership in updating America.

      Of course, it doesn’t help when NASA continues to do their PR in imperial units. It’s time American techies started saying, “this is embarrassing – can’t we even just PRETEND to use modern systems of measurement, in public?”

  3. I really like Hackaday, but it seems there’s a trend of articles that just reference a YouTube video from a 1M+ subscriber channel, and it’s somewhat off-putting, to say at least.

  4. Pseudo-science show, funny but useless.
    Some guys seems to have too much spare time & money, they should instead find a better way to reduce the average murican’s power/water waste & CO2 emission.
    Also funny how many americans seems to love stuffs involving shooting at targets… just saying… ;)
    OK, I’m out !

    1. Just the same, Mach 1.3 on a baseball is kind of impressive. I will say, though, that as “blowing things up” videos goes, this was kind of a yawn. Seriously. Tasting the pulverized candy sprinkles? *facepalm*

    2. Shooting targets is a lot of fun. You aught to try it sometime :) .

      As for spare/time and money. Well, it is their time and money and should spend it any way they like. If one is concerned about CO2 or whatever fad catches your interest, then go for it.

      I skipped to the slow motion portion of video. They could easily shorten it to that ‘one section’ in my mind. Neat to see the shadow and the ‘light flash’ …. Basically the physics of what is happening.

  5. Geesh… not EVERY project on the Internet needs to be about saving the earth or, as one bigot suggested here: “to reduce the average murican’s power/water waste & CO2 emission.” Seriously, talk about kill-joys. You must be WONDERFUL to have around at a Christmas party.

    This video does not cure cancer or world hunger, granted. On the other hand, it DOES depict interesting effects, it DOES involve physics, math, and data collection, and perhaps most important of all, it communicates a genuine love and enthusiasm for science. (The host literally gets giddy about making a graph!) THAT kind of message is much more likely to encourage children to take up the mantle of a scientist/discoverer, then telling them they are all going to die in 10 years because of global warming.

    Someone made a disparaging remark about the video creator having ‘too much time on his hands.” Who do YOU think is the more productive of two individuals: (A) The guy who designs and builds a hypersonic baseball cannon, and then creates a series of videos that educate and entertain millions of people or (B) The guy who thinks he’s contributing by crapping on the first guy?

    I enjoyed watching the baseball hit the mayo. I didn’t think: “Oh look, they’re blowing shit up.” What I wondered was if the spatter/crater pattern created in the mayo was representative of the pattern created when that meteor struck the earth off the Yucatan peninsula. I’d love to see a hypersonic baseball hit a 10-foot or 20-foot plastic sphere filled with mayo. Extinction event, anyone?

    Even the sprinkle target was interesting. I watched the particles fly about and I thought “FEA.” If you take the mass, velocity, and trajectory of every one of those particles and work backwards, they equal (minus losses) the kinetic energy of the baseball when it struck. That’s interesting and a tangible expression of what might otherwise be a boring statement in a physics book. And no, I don’t fault the guy for tasting the impacted sprinkles. Child-like curiosity is ultimately what inspires all exploration.

    Did any of you notice the spontaneous (compressive) ignition at the moment the ball hit the side of the jar? The host referred to it as “dieseling” the mayo. That’s fascinating.

    Final thought regarding the guy who thinks it’s “…funny how many americans seems to love stuffs involving shooting at targets.” It’s only “funny” because you’ve been brainwashed into thinking of yourself as a subject–as opposed to citizen–of the country to live in.

    1. Kudos to you, Observer. Why, indeed does everything have to be about saving the planet? (Hint: we won’t.) And if you don’t want to watch a few dudes enjoying the pursuit of knowledge for its own reward, then go watch Netflix. As far as jibe’s “too much spare time and money” screed, I’m impressed with anyone who can figure out how to monetize their passion. Sounds like envy to me.

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