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Ballparking: Practical Math for Impractical Sports Questions Paperback – May 1, 2012


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Ballparking: Practical Math for Impractical Sports Questions + How Many Licks?: Or, How to Estimate Damn Near Anything + Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762443456
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762443451
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #922,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Aaron Santos received a Ph.D. in Physics from Boston University in 2007, and is currently a visiting assistant professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Oberlin College. He is the author of How Many Licks?: Or How to Estimate Damn Near Anything, and enjoys writing his Diary of Numbers blog (diaryofnumbers.blogspot.com). He lives in Oberlin, Ohio.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on May 23, 2012
Format: Paperback
In this very appropriately-titled book, the author ponders various physical problems in the world of sports - problems whose estimated solutions can often be quite surprising.

On the positive side, I found this book highly entertaining. The Fermi method of estimating solutions to various problems is very well illustrated. The formulas used are many; they are mostly quite simple and are fun to go through. Also, of particular note is that I found several comments/passages in this book to be absolutely hilarious; in fact, on many occasions I had to take a pause to wipe the tears out of my eyes before continuing on (some of the author's choices of words in various contexts are priceless!).

On the negative side, the author assumes that the reader possesses knowledge of much of the popular lingo commonly associated with various sports. Not being that well-informed, I found myself scratching my head on several occasions because of this; eventually the contexts in most cases made it clear to me what was meant. Also, someone trying to solve the equations presented by using the indicated numbers must be careful to ensure that the units are all consistent - in many cases, some conversions will be necessary. Finally, I found several unfortunate editorial mistakes scattered throughout.

Overall, I enjoyed this book very much. The author's writing style is chatty, friendly, captivating and, as mentioned above, often quite humorous. This book should appeal the most to readers who are familiar with very basic math and physics. If, in addition, they are avid sports fans, then this book will surely be a must.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By lora lackaff on August 7, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Looking for graduation gifts for my son's athletic friends, I found, to my delight, Dr. Santos' second book Ballparking: Practical Math for Impractical Sports Questions. With fun and spot-on, timely examples, Dr. Santos fascinated even this older mom/grandma whose math skills are also graying. Ballparking: Practical Math for Impractical Sports Questions was an ideal choice for sparking my little gray cells, and engaging digitally absorbed teens.
P.S. The grads loved it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pauline Chen on August 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
I'll start this review with the caveat that I have happily avoided math and physics since high school, and generally start to glaze over when large numbers are thrown around. I received this book as a gift and was startled to find how entertaining it was. The questions it considers are amusing: Could Michael Phelps swim if his feet were encased in cement blocks? How likely was it that Wilt Chamberlain would have contracted a sexually transmitted disease? On top of that, the prose is laugh-out-loud funny. I was not familiar with Fermi approximations previously, and think that the mathematical explanations are presented in a clear and non-threatening way. I think that for those who have an interest in sports and math (and I suspect there are many of your out there) , this book would make a delightful gift.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By spire7 on July 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. I don't hate math, like so many people seem to proudly proclaim, but it's not a subject to which I'd given much serious thought since high school. And it's definitely not something I'd ever thought of as entertainment. Still, this book, which managed to catch my eye in a bookstore display, legitimately made me see math and numbers in a whole new light. The author's witty writing style urges, none too gently and consistently hilariously, that math really (no, really) can be fun, especially for all the jock-nerds out there, but also - and I think this is the book's biggest accomplishment - for someone like me who doesn't usually have more than a passing interest in sports or math, and certainly not the combination of both.

The book packs a huge amount of useful how-to math information in with an endlessly entertaining amount of useless tidbits (read: the proportion of rat droppings to be found in stadium hotdogs ... though on second thought, maybe that is actually useful info). The author is careful at the beginning to give the disclaimer that the estimations in the book are just that - estimations. Someone else could probably do many of these same problems and come up with slightly - or wildly - different answers, but I think that is precisely his point.

The down-to-earth explanation of how to estimate using the "Fermi" method ("1. Start with what you know ... 2. Build a path by cancelling units ... 3. Use upper and lower bounds ... 4. Be honest ... 5. Enjoy") is illustrated via progressively more intricate problems throughout the book (some of which, I admit, were over my head mathematically at this stage in life).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By risland5- on July 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
As a retired engineer I made my living using practical math so I was somewhat interested in the book. The sports envolvement made it more interesting. I found the authors first book more entertaining as it was more widely based. Both were a fun read.
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