Supersonic Baseball Cannon Destroys Everything in Its Path

What happens when you use an air cannon to hurl baseballs at supersonic speeds? If you record it on high speed cameras, the answer is that you get YouTube videos with millions of views. Destin Sandlin and the team at Smarter Every Day continue their series of videos using the baseball cannon they made last year. In their latest, they decimate a gong, silly putty, a mirror, and even a container of sprinkles. All in the name of science, of course. 

The team asked for audience input into what to fling the baseball into. Basically, what they wanted to watch explode in really slow motion. In part one of their experimentation, this included jars of mayonnaise. At supersonic speeds, the baseball itself often explodes too. Using the high speed cameras at different angles, it’s apparent that it’s already tattered before reaching the target.  

Supersonic means faster than the speed of sound, which is 767 miles per hour. This is also referred to as Mach 1. The team records the baseball traveling 1,189 miles per hour, or Mach 1.54. For comparison, the Guinness World Record for fastest baseball pitch is 105.1 mph by Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds, in 2010. 

A plastic container of sprinkles mid-explosion

If there’s any doubt that these are science experiments and not just YouTube stunts, it’s obvious in the glee in Sandlin’s voice. He says, “We have our first data point!” The video also shows what goes into setting up the cameras, lighting, and other elements to get the shot right the first time. Though it doesn’t show the cleanup, which I imagine is extensive.

A red cannon with smoke coming out of it sits in a grassy field

The Smarter Every Day YouTube channel includes lots of other slow motion videos of engineering feats, like the internal combustion engine or setting up a vortex collision.

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth. 

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