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Why a Curveball Curves: The Incredible Science of Sports (Popular Mechanics) Hardcover – April 1, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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Have you always believed the scientists who say that a curveball is just an optical illusion? Well, guess what: they’re wrong. A curveball, according to this wonderfully informative book, really does curve, and even the illustrious Isaac Newton knew it (he even wrote a paper about it, more than 300 years ago). It’s all in the way the ball is spinning, and something called the Magnus Force. There are even a couple of illustrations here to help you understand the explanation. Of course, the book isn’t just about pitched baseballs, or even just about baseball: it talks about basketball, soccer, hockey, golf, and several other sports; and it answers some very interesting questions, such as why Gretzky really was the greatest (an innate ability to translate physical cues into action) and how you, too, can bend it (a soccer ball, that is) like Beckham. A must-read for sports fans, physics buffs, and general audiences too. --David Pitt

Review

“ . . . enjoyabl[e] . . . fun.”—Sports Illustrated

“This book is quite possibly every sports nerd’s dream . . . . Read this book and you’ll feel smarter and better informed about the sports you watch or play.”—Pete Hausler, WSJ.com

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Popular Mechanics
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Hearst (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1588164756
  • ISBN-13: 978-1588164759
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,204,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a kid, I was never a big science fan . . . I've now become
more interested in the subject and you will, too, if you
read WHY A CURVEBALL CURVES--edited by Frank Vizard.

This book is a collection of articles from POPULAR MECHANICS
by such contributors as Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella,
Olympic swimming coach Bob Bowman and Buzz "The Shot
Doctor" Graman . . . you'll learn how certain hockey
players achieve greater speed on the ice, why swimming is
all about reducing drag and even what Babe Ruth had to say
about the mechanics of his home-run swing:

* Coordination, that is perfect timing and harmony of action, is a great
essential. You have got to develop rhythm and full utility of every
muscle. My whole body goes with every swing. I swing right from the
hips. And those who have seen me take a healthy sock at the ball know
what I mean. With that coordination there is the fact that I assume that
strength is behind it.

Whatever your favorite sport is, you'll probably find it covered
in this book . . . baseball, basketball, bowling, boxing, cycling,
football, golf, hockey, running, skiing, soccer, swimming and
diving, and tennis all get covered in separate chapters, often
accompanied by memorable photos.

I often found out some surprising information; e.g., about the
importance of the follow-through in golf:

* Irrelevant. In truth, a golfer could release the club from his hands
the moment after impact and it would make no difference--except,
of course, to your playing partners, who might not appreciate
having your eight-iron embedded between their shoulder
blades.
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Format: Paperback
This book approaches sports from a scientific viewpoint, but is free of mathematical calculations. Owing to its breadth, I will only focus on a few items--mostly those not mentioned by previous reviewers.

For a long time, lactic acid buildup in the muscles was interpreted as evidence of shortage of oxygen in the muscle. It turns out that lactic acid is produced by the body as a fuel for metabolism. (p. 20).

A hit in baseball can impose over 4,000 pounds of force, over a split second, on the ball. A graph (p. 42) indicates that a swing speed (of the bat) at 20 mph results in a speed of the batted ball of 63 mph. Other combinations include (30, 73), (40, 83), and (50, 93).

The chapter on boxing makes it clear how the knockout takes place. The skull experiences a sudden acceleration, and the brain within the skull accelerates separately, temporarily stunning it and causing disorientation or unconsciousness.

The discussion of hockey has fascinating information. Did you realize, for instance, that were it not for the boundaries of the rink, a puck shot at 100 mph would slide nearly 1.2 miles before coming to a stop, doing so in 2 hours and 15 minutes? (p. 158).

The chapter on soccer discusses the Magnus Effect on the kicked soccer ball. A slightly off-center kick imposes a spin on the ball. This spin interacts with the airflow around the ball, causing a slight deceleration on one side of the ball. This, in turn, produces a new force--one that causes the ball to spin. Another change in the ball's motion occurs when the airflow around the soccer ball changes from turbulent to laminar flow as it slows down. The drag on the ball suddenly increases, and the ball suddenly dips in its trajectory.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has entertained my curious child on many road trips. The pages are bent and the cover is well-loved. Every time that he reads this book, he learns something new. I would definitely recommend this for all sports enthusiasts as well as fact lovers. This is "Ripley's Believe it Or Not" for sports fans everywhere!!
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Format: Hardcover
This book was so interesting that I couldn't put it down- read it in less than two hours. It explains some of the science behind sports, not just baseball, but football, bowling, golf, basketball, and more. It is not too technical, so the average joe can understand it.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this for my husband and he loves it. He is active in several sports and refers to this as "the book" now. He is a thinker and likes to know the "whys" of things. This book is right up his alley.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an interesting book. A little bit less in detail than I was expecting,...but not much less. I've rated it 4 of 5 stars as I believe that when 5 equals the 'best you can get'...this book is NOT that. It's good. You'll like it. The price is fair. I bought three copies,...to give to our sons and son-in-law... all of whom are immersed in sports. I scanned through one of them before we wrapped them in advance of Christmas. The information regarding the physics of sports is fascinating and meant to be presented as reference material. If you've got a curious mind regarding the subject material, you'll like this book.
DP
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Format: Paperback
I was going to give 3 stars, but the book is a wonderful gift and a great book for kids (and for the coffee table). This is a compilation of Popular Mechanics articles, many of which date to the 1990s. There are 2-3 essays on each of thirteen sports. They're short, simple and can be read quickly. The articles aren't technical: basic physics but no tough math. I was hoping some of the articles would go into more depth actually; this was one of the drawbacks for me.

The best parts: the amazing swerving shot in soccer (bend it like Beckham), coach Bob Bowman on the latest swimming teaching and Michael Phelps (he explains why world records are broken so regularly as the teaching and training methods advance), and Jim Kaat's analysis of baseball pitches. Kaat was informative, but again, I was looking for a bit more science.

If you want more hard core science, don't look here. I'm going to look at Brancazio or Goff perhaps. Nevertheless, this is good basic fun.
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