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Mathletics: A Scientist Explains 100 Amazing Things About the World of Sports Hardcover – June 18, 2012


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Mathletics: A Scientist Explains 100 Amazing Things About the World of Sports + Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football + Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (June 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393063410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393063417
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #958,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“...Barrow’s writing is accessible and entertaining, just the thing for mathematically minded sports fans.” (Publishers Weekly)

About the Author

John D. Barrow is a professor of mathematical sciences and director of the Millennium Mathematics Project at Cambridge University and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He is known internationally for his research in cosmology and for his popular science writing. He lives in Cambridge, England.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Positive Pete on September 2, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I discovered the book through an article in Scientific American. Being 1st a sports enthusiast and 2nd scientifically minded, I was very excited to buy the book. If you are a calculator-head and love everything math, you will probably enjoy this book greatly. I found it lopsided towards math and did not feed my sports cravings. It is written at an above average reading level.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on September 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
In this book, the author describes various sports, including a great many from the Olympics, and proceeds to analyze them using physical and mathematical principles. Many of these analyses focus on the physical performance of the given sport, others on the scoring system and yet a few others on winning strategies. A few chapters address less sports-like events such as coin flipping, probability, psychology, etc. Having read the author's excellent "100 Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know", I was eagerly expecting more of the same in this book but with a sports-related twist. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed.

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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Murray on January 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Some of the maths was a bit esoteric and could have been made simpler. More attention could have been applied to limits of swimming speeds.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book has some excellent chapters. I particularly enjoyed the part in which the author investigates the relationship between the size of a rowing crew and the speed at which it travels, and the probabilistic analysis of different scoring systems in squash and other sports.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm a physicist and like to use sport to illustrate bits of physics. That said it is very difficult making something that is interesting and useful for a general audience - I know as I've tried. Mathletics does it. Interesting at all levels and many examples are launching grounds for deeper looks.

We need more popular math and science books like this .. I hope there is a followup!
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