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The Perfection Point: Sport Science Predicts the Fastest Man, the Highest Jump, and the Limits of Athletic Performance Hardcover – August 31, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061845450
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061845451
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #595,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Here’s a fascinating exploration of the limits of human athletic ability. The author, host of ESPN’s Sport Science, begins with Roger Bannister’s 1954 breaking of the four-minute mile. Many people had seriously wondered if this landmark could ever be achieved, but after Bannister did it, more than 300 people followed suit over the next decade. That happened not only because Bannister proved it could be done (and so inspired others to try) but also because human beings are getting faster and stronger, and athletic techniques are constantly being refined and augmented. The book is full of startling facts: the current U.S. record for holding one’s breath, for example, is a breathtaking 7 minutes and 21 seconds. But here’s the book’s most arresting element: using a variety of disciplines, including physics and physiology, Brenkus extrapolates into the future, showing us when we will reach our absolute limit of performance. For example, he posits that the fastest time a human will ever post in the hundred-yard dash will be 8.99 seconds, about 900 years from now (he also explains why this will be the absolute limit); similarly, somewhere around 2672, breath-holding ability will top out at about 14 minutes and 47 seconds. Sure to spark debate in sporting and scientific circles, the book is engagingly written, well argued, and—even when the conclusions seem almost science fictiony—entirely plausible. --David Pitt

Review

“Fascinating...Sure to spark debate in sporting and scientific circles, the book is engagingly written, well argued, and-even when the conclusions seem almost science-fictiony-entirely plausible.” (Booklist (starred review))

“[Brenkus] busts out some Hawking-like equations in an effort to calculate the outer limits of human athletic performance.” (New York Times Book Review)

“This stuff is catnip to a sports fan.” (The Week)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ex-Pat Brit on August 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My 14-year old science-loving son enjoys watching "Sport Science" clips on YouTube, plus he constantly asks questions about the limits of human performance. What is the highest possible dunk? The fastest possible 100m? The mightiest possible power lift? I thought that this book would be a definite hit for him. We pre-ordered the book and it arrived yesterday. I got a chance to read it before my son got home and knew that he would really enjoy it. When he saw the book he immediately rushed to read it. Of course, he wanted to just get to The Numbers at first:) John Brenkus (who is the host of Sport Science) does a wonderful job of making this topic fun and interesting, plus he does a nice job on the analytical bits where he explains how he (or rather the experts he quotes) actually get to The Numbers.

One quibble: The book keeps on going on about what we could theoretically eventually achieve in time, but - hey - we will be a different species by then given our rate of evolution. Huh? According to one expert, we are a different species than we were 200 years ago and we will certainly be a different species in a 1000 years. Hmmm. Strange.

Remember this book is full of statistical models about theoretical maximums. [Note: I am a statistician by training so I appreciate statistical models for what they are.] There is certainly no guarantee that humans will reach these theoretical maximums, but remember these are just that - theoretical maximums. A human will NEVER run a 100m faster than 8.99 seconds. Will he ever reach the theoretical maximum? Maybe, maybe not. He will approach the theoretical maximum, but he never will surpass it because he never can surpass it due to human limitations.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By R. V. Hatcher on November 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book. I picked it up at the library after reading the review in the Wall Street Journal, who liked it too. I like that there are self-contained chapters, that you don't need to read all of them. It's also really interesting to put your guess in at the start of the chapter. Chapters I enjoyed the most were the 100-yd dash, how far a golf ball can be hit, and how high can a basketball rim be that can still be dunked on.

If you like sports, and like sports science, then you will like this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Records are made to be broken, or so it is said. At some point, however, one can run into the limits of physics and human physiology. It's probably not possible for a baseball player to hit a home run that travels a mile, for example. Why? Because the momentum the baseball would needed to overcome the air resistance over the course of a 5,280 foot home run could not be produced by a human, whether on steroids or not. That would simply exceed what we are designed to do.

We can do the math, if you like, but I'll warn you, your eyes would glaze over, so I will skip it for now.

Or, alternatively, we can let someone else do the math and we can look at their results.

John Brenkus, the host and executive producer of ESPN's Sport Science did just that to provide a hard look at the absolute limits of human performance. In a new book, Brenkus finds the "Perfection Point" for several sports, golf included, by determining the speeds, heights, distances that mark the limits of human performance. To do this, he used statistics, physics, and physiology to uncover the limits for the longest golf drive, among other sports, such as the longest home run, the fastest time for a mile in track and field, the heaviest bench press in weightlifting, etc.

Brenkus results are not a dry math and physics lesson suitable only for a university lecture to engineering students, instead, his illustrations are not only informative, they are quite entertaining and easily understandable.

In the world of golf, Brenkus's examination for driving the ball found a 543 yard theoretical limit, a 23% increase (125 yards) from the current record of 418 yards held by current long-drive champion Jamie Sadlowski.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mariusz Skonieczny on September 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Length: 1:32 Mins
This is a video review about The Perfection Point.
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By dk on October 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Different but interesting and practical take on sports and the sportsmen ability to conquer the challenges, more importantly putting a number on it and then reasoning it to provide answers
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