- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (2 July 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393345505
- ISBN-13: 978-0393345506
- Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 0.2 x 2.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,586,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Mathletics: 100 Amazing Things You Didn't Know About the World of Sports Paperback – 2 Jul 2013
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...Barrow 's writing is accessible and entertaining, just the thing for mathematically minded sports fans.
...Barrow s writing is accessible and entertaining, just the thing for mathematically minded sports fans.
"[A] fast-paced, lighthearted book that revels in the brainier side of brawn. --Fangfei Shen
[A] fast-paced, lighthearted book that revels in the brainier side of brawn.--Fangfei Shen"
Barrow delivers the math and science goods for every sports fan who s ever wondered how to Bend It Like Beckham or what the best positions are to reduce air resistance while sky-diving Accessible and entertaining, just the thing for mathematically minded sports fans."
An illuminating mix for sports fans and math buffs looking to hone their skills.
Readers will marvel at how much mathematics can illuminate athletes most amazing feats. . . . Sports fans and nerds will fight over this book!--Bryce Christensen"
About the Author
John D. Barrow is professor of mathematical sciences and director of the Millennium Mathematics Project at Cambridge University, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society. He is the best-selling author of many books on science and mathematics, including Mathletics: 100 Amazing Things You Didn t Know about the World of Sports and 100 Essential Things You Didn t Know You Didn t Know: Math Explains Your World.
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On the positive side, there are many interesting sports details discussed in this book - especially about Olympic events. Consequently, I learned much about the various Olympic sports, as well as a bit on their history. Also, many of the physical/mathematical analyses are as interesting as I had hoped and were a great pleasure to read. Finally, the author's writing style is very friendly, chatty, lively and generally accessible.
On the negative side, the book contains too many errors, omissions, erroneous labelling of diagrams, incomplete/misleading diagrams and some rather unclear descriptions. Taken together, I found these to be extremely frustrating. Also, I must agree with a prior reviewer who pointed out that some rather British sports - predominantly rugby and cricket - are discussed with the assumption that the reader knows all about them: terminology, rules, etc. For North American readers like me, this is not necessarily the case. In retrospect, it almost appears as though the book was rushed into print without proper editing. The author often mentions the "future" London 2012 Olympics. Perhaps there was pressure to publish the book early enough in 2012 (before the Olympics) to boost sales at the expense of adequate editorial review (?)
A book such as this is usually of immense interest to math enthusiasts, like me, who love seeing basic mathematics applied to real-world situations - in this case, sports. Despite the above shortcomings, the book (at least good parts of it) can still be enjoyed as long as the reader is aware of possible frustrations due to the mistakes noted above. I gave the book the above (possibly overly generous) score by focussing on its positive aspects and as an expression of my appreciation for books of this type.
But other parts are disappointing. This is a collection of many short essays, and some of them stop before making an interesting point: an essay on the appearance of Simpson's paradox in averages gets as far as observing an occurrence of it, and then it just ends. There is no exploration of the mathematics of Simpson's paradox on even a superficial level. The chapter describing an algorithm for organizing a round-robin tournament is completely wrong: it's very clear from the author's examples that some teams will never play each other under his algorithm, while a correct algorithm is very widely known but not, apparently, to the author. Lots of typos throughout the book render some of the equations and expressions incorrect, so if readers are trying to follow along with the algebra, they may get very confused.
The author can't decide the level he's pitching the book at. Some very elementary mathematical concepts are explained in detail, while other sections assume specialist knowledge that is not explained: for instance the calculation of power-vs-drag of a rowing crew uses concepts about scaling and dimensionality which would make an interesting chapter on their own, but instead are introduced very quickly in passing. It's hard to imagine that a reader who hadn't met these ideas before would be satisfied.
It's clear from the other reviews here that the author made a tactical error in not pandering to an American audience: American sports fans are resolutely unwilling, it appears, to make the effort to gain even a passing familiarity with sports played widely across the other 90% of the world. Nevertheless, the author could have done a better job of integrating examples from US sports in many places.
It would be nice to read an updated edition that finished the essays that were left unfinished, corrected the typos, applied a little more organization to the order of the chapters and helped the American sports fans appreciate the ideas better.
Having been a rower when I was young, I was particularly fascinated by the arguments discussed in chapter 36 "Rowing has its moments" which is about the moments (force x distance) applied to a boat with N rowers (N=4,8). From Barrow's analysis it appears that the boats with standard rig of alternate four or eight rowers do wiggle because the total moment is not zero. In this regard, the non-standard rig introduced by the Moto Guzzi rowing club in the 1950s is characterized by a zero total moment which is highly beneficial (they won the Olympic Games in 1956). A detailed analysis by Barrow was published in the American Journal of Physics in 2010.
Another interesting chapter is the one dedicated to triathlon (ch. 58): according to the author, the present triathlon races are biased toward bicycle ride, meaning that good swimmers and runners are at disadvantage with respect to the riders. The author hence suggest an equitempered triathlon that result from equalizing the time spent on each activity. The book is certainly interesting and entertaining and it is worth reading even if you do not have a good background in mathematics and physics. If you have a strong interest in the biochemistry and physiology of sports, then the book Run, Swim, Throw, Cheat: The Science Behind Drugs in Sport by Chris Cooper is a must.
Note: no references are given for ch. 73 (The illusion of floating) where the motion of dancers investigated by physicists is being discussed.
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