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Newton's Football: The Science Behind America's Game by [St. John, Allen, Ramirez, Ainissa G.]
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Newton's Football: The Science Behind America's Game Kindle Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

What prepared Vince Lombardi for phenomenal success in professional football? St. John and Ramirez believe it was the eight years Lombardi spent teaching high-school math and physics. For behind Lombardi’s six NFL titles in the 1960s, the authors discern a brilliant application of Newtonian physics in the Green Bay Packers’ famous power sweep and of probability theory in the Packers’ run-oriented game plans. But Lombardi’s storied career is but one gridiron setting in which readers discover hidden scientific and mathematical concepts. Readers will marvel, for instance, at how chaos theory connects an injury to a key player with the beginning of the West Coast offense. Just as amazing is the Boolean logic governing quarterback reads. Other analyses deploy the science of dynamic feedback to explain how adding a face mask to the helmet put players at greater risk of concussions, and combine the physics of pass-blocking with the thermodynamics of nutrition (and steroids?) to account for behemoth linemen. A delightfully improbable book putting science nerds and sports fans on the same page. --Bryce Christensen


“It was with great interest that I read Newton’s Football. I’m a fan of applying of science to sport and Newton’s Football truly delivers. The stories are as engaging as they are informative. This is a great read for all football fans.”—Mark Cuban

“A delightfully improbable book putting science nerds and sports fans on the same page.”Booklist
“This breezily-written but informative book should pique the interest of any serious football fan in the twenty-first century.”The American Spectator
“The authors have done a worthy job of combining popular science and sports into a work that features enough expertise on each topic to satisfy nerds and jocks alike. . . . The writers succeed in their task thanks to in-depth scientific knowledge, a wonderful grasp of football’s past and present, interviews with a wide array of experts, and witty prose. . . . [Newton’s Football is] fun and thought-provoking, proving that football is a mind game as much as it is a ball game.”Publishers Weekly
“Journalist St. John and former Yale engineering professor Ramirez use scientific principles to give a greater understanding of the spectacle of competitive violence that is American professional football. . . . What makes this book so enjoyable is the authors’ revealing of how academic disciplines such as Boolean algebra and paleontology are present in such a brutish sport.”Kirkus Reviews

“Equal parts Isaac Newton and Cam Newton, this book is as thoroughly entertaining and engrossing as a fall Sunday afternoon on the couch.”—L. Jon Wertheim, executive editor of Sports Illustrated and bestselling co-author of Scorecasting
“Nothing is more bipartisan than America’s love for football. And Newton’s Football will unite readers of all stripes by merging science and sports in a fresh and fascinating fashion. Read this book and you’ll never again watch a game the same way.”—Chris Mooney, New York Times bestselling author of The Republican War on Science
“What do you get when you pair a journalist and bestselling author with a materials scientist turned science ‘evangelist,’ and have them collaborate on a book about football? With any luck, you get Newton’s Football, a breezily informative and fun exploration of the science behind this popular pastime, from Vince Lombardi’s use of game theory to helmet design and why woodpeckers don’t get concussions.”—Jennifer Ouellette, author of The Calculus Diaries
“Football is a great game to watch, but Allen St. John and Ainissa Ramirez make it a great game to think about as well. Where else are you going to find a discussion of Heisenberg’s influence on the NFL or a serious comparison of Isaac Newton and Vince Lombardi? This book is a terrific read.”—James Trefil, Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Physics at George Mason University and co-author of The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy

“A fascinating melding of science and sport, at once lively and illuminating, rich with knowledge of the game and arresting explanations of its winning strategies.”—Daniel J. Kevles, Yale University

Product Details

  • File Size: 2009 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (November 19, 2013)
  • Publication Date: November 19, 2013
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00C4BA3VE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,406 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The slate of football books released in a given year are usually rather predictable. You will have a fair share of memoirs from players and coaches associated with Super Bowl winners or national champions striking while the iron is hot, historical books playing off of the nostalgia for a particular team and/or era, and a few exposes decrying the big business of football and the physical and mental dangers associated with it. I have nothing against these books, and recently quite enjoyed Nate Jackson's memoir Slow Getting Up, but I still get excited when I find more distinctive books like Newton's Football.Written by a journalist and a former engineering professor at Yale, Newton's Football applies pop science to the gridiron with largely engaging results. It is a light and breezy read worth the attention of any inquisitive football fan.

While its title may suggest a physics-heavy approach, Newton's Football actually covers a very wide scope of the natural and social sciences (those solely interested in the physics of the game should seek out Timothy Gay's sometimes dry but generally enjoyable The Physics of Football). Topics range from what the uncanny valley can tell us about the game's violent nature, how prospect theory explains coaches' risk-averse natures, and what Schrodinger's cat teaches us about the effectiveness of the West Coast offense. Drawing illuminating connections between seemingly unintuitive concepts is a hallmark of many nonfiction books, but very few of these books to my knowledge deal exclusively with football. Newton's Football can best be described as Scorecasting with more of a natural sciences focus, and I think both books are some of the best sports works released in the past few years.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I haven't watched much American football in recent years, having decided I was a soccer fan. But after reading Newton's Football, I spent a fun Sunday afternoon watching two NFL playoff games and appreciating them more than ever. Allen St. John and Ainissa Ramirez provide a wonderful, balanced blend of just the right amount of history, science, and sports to keep me turning the pages and enjoying the ride. Who knew that the bounce of the "prolate spheroid" that is a football would be so complex that gaming programmers on Team Madden at EA Sports have spent untold hours trying to get it to look just right on a flat screen? Or that the tightest spiral you've ever seen has some wobble in it? Or that the soccer style field goal kick succeeds because it maximizes the area of the foot in contact with the football?

I was amazed to learn that early rules counted a field goal as five points and a touchdown as only two, and that the "flying wedge" was an instrument of such extreme gridiron brutality that rules were changed to make it illegal.

If you ever wondered how our American game came to be played in discrete downs instead of continuously, or how the line of scrimmage came to replace rugby's "scrum," this book is for you. If you are a science enthusiast who thinks chaos theory, quantum probability, and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle have nothing to do with football, you'll be surprised to find Sam Wyche's development of the no-huddle offense linked to the first, Bill Walsh's West Coast Offense described using the second, and Dick LeBeau's zone blitz likened to the third, respectively. Newton's football is a thoroughly engaging, entertaining, and informative book for the sports fan or the scientist (or, if you're lucky, both) locked up inside you.
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Format: Kindle Edition
As both a physicist and long-time football player and fan, this book hit the sweet spot. Science and history - two subjects that can be repellents for many - come alive in this in-depth look at "America's Game". From why even an NFL Quarterbacks' spiral has to wobble a little bit to how biomechanics underlies why a select few big hitters, like Dashon Goldson, have reduced their risk of head injury due to their disciplined tackling form, Newton's Football will surely enrich the way you think about the game.

Over the course of the book, Dr. Ainissa Ramirez and Allen St. John build the foundational knowledge of the history and science behind football that one needs in order to follow the big questions facing the NFL today. It turns out that modern football wouldn't be anything like the game it is today without a number of key innovations in the rules, game strategies, and equipment that are inspired by scientific principles. It's these principles that we'll have to employ to understand and hopefully solve the head injury problem at all levels of football.

Dr. Ramirez's love for science shines through as a surprisingly fitting compliment to the seemingly barbaric game of football. To those who love football: see inside the "beautiful mind" of Vince Lombardi and discover just how the innovations of Bill Walsh (West Coast Offense) and Sam Wyche (No-huddle) were born. To those who love science and engineering (or any intellectual challenge): scientists have no choice but to work within the confines of nature -- always in search of the boundaries. Engineers toe the line and do all they can to push the limits. In Newton's football, you will learn that the main contributors to the evolution of football worked in the same way -- confined by and changing the rules of the game. Pushing the limits. This book is the story of the 'who' and 'how' of football's present situation and 'why' the game probably still has some changing yet to do.
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