UMSL physicist talks science of ‘broadcast buffet’ from Cardinals postseason play

UMSL students at Busch Stadium

Can’t make it to Busch Stadium like UMSL students (from left) Courtney Henrichsen, Lindsey Laird, Nicole Vickers, Michael Weaver and Austin Culbertson? There are plenty of broadcast options for postseason Cardinals baseball. But expect delays. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The St. Louis Cardinals have enjoyed ample time on the national stage this postseason. That means fans have a “broadcast buffet” for tuning into Cards playoff games, St. Louis Magazine contributor D.J. Wilson points out. He turned to Bernard Feldman, professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, to discuss the science of and delays across the various formats.

Fans following the Cardinals-Dodgers National League Championship game, for example, can view it on satellite or cable TV or listen along via AM, FM or Internet radio. Turn them all on at once, however, and be prepared for an echo on each play called. In other words, you can’t crank up the Mike ShannonJohn Rooney play-by-play on KMOX (1120 AM) and synchronize it with the muted televised version of the game on TBS. 

As it turns out, that lack of harmony has less to do with science than the stations intentionally delaying the programming.

“All (broadcast) waves travel at the speed of light, so the delay is in the electronics,” Feldman told St. Louis Magazine. “The speed of light is 186,000 miles a second, so a distance of 15,000 miles would just take a tenth of a second. Most of the delay would not be due to transmission.”

Visit the St. Louis Magazine website to read the full article.


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