Breaking Curve Balls Are Only an Illusion

Breaking Curve Balls Are Only an Illusion
November 4, 2010 — Eye tracking studies have demonstrated that those fancy, breaking curve balls batters dread so much are nothing but an illusion.
"Our central vision is very small," said researcher Arthur Shapiro, PhD, associate professor at American University in Washington D.C. "It's the size of the tip of your thumb at arm's length. When an object falls outside of that region, strange perceptions can occur."
A batter tends to switch from central to peripheral vision at the point a ball is about 20 feet away (two-thirds of the way to home plate). At the point peripheral vision takes over, the eye no longer can detect separate motions of a spinning ball.
This means the eye becomes confused by the combined motions of the velocity of the ball and how it spins, according to researcher Zhong-Lin Lu, PhD, of the University of Southern California.
When the ball reaches the plate, the batter switches back to central vision. And at this point, the ball appears to make an abrupt change or "break."

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