The Physics behind Sports Radar Guns

High School Baseball PlayerThe radar was first used during World War II as part of the Military’s equipment. Later on, in the early 1970s, the police started using them to catch over speeding drivers. But, beyond law enforcement and military activities, the radar did not have any other practical use. Not for long, though. A baseball coach at Michigan State named Litwhiler came up with the ingenious idea of using a stalker radar gun like those offered by Radar Sports, LLC in sports.

The Conception

As soon as Litwhiler witnessed the use of radar guns, he had the idea to use them as a tool for teaching baseball. He specifically wanted to help pitchers improve the speed gap between their fastball and change-up. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sports radar guns have become an essential tool for coaches and scouts through the course of baseball. In fact, in nearly every major league station, they display the reading from the gun after every pitch.

The Physics Behind a Throw

Did you know that Radar is not really a word, but an acronym for Radio, Detection, and Ranging, which defines its functions? Similar to an echo where a sound wave bounces off a certain blockade and returning, radar is a radio wave that goes through an identical process.

All radio waves move at similar speeds, around the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) or a foot in a billionth of a second. You’ll primarily have to determine the duration it takes for the wave to travel from the radar gun to the ball and back. Afterward, you’ll need to multiply the duration by the speed of the wave to determine the area to the ball and back to the gun. After dividing the two, you will get the distance to the ball.

Keep in mind that the speed the common radar gun records is only a portion of an object’s speed, in the direction the where you pointed it. This is why most who use radar guns do it behind a home plate. This is the only location where it can correctly measure pitch speed.