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The Science of Sports

Previous columns have included reviews of resourses specific to mathematics and sports: Football #1, Football #2, Basketball #1, Basketball #2, Baseball #1, Baseball #2, Baseball #3, Baseball #4, and Miscellaneous Sports. Again, if you have resources to add to this list, please let me know.

This column (and a future week in March) will focus on the mathematical sciences underlying the playing and understanding of various sports. Another column in the spring will have a similar focus.

A good place to start is Alain Hache's book The Physics of Hockey. Hache provides enlightened discussions on the physical properties of ice surfaces, the biomechanics of skating, the odds of winning/losing streaks, and the physics underlying the key skills of shooting, hitting, bodychecking, and goaltending.

George Barr's book Sports Science for Young People is a much simpler book in its science explanantions. Barr also focuses on the primary sports of baseball, football, and basketball, though does give some attention to golf, ice-skating, running, swimming, high-jumping, bowling, and boating. Again, this book is a simplistic view, but that may be your necessary starting point.

Two good follow-ups would be either Robert Gardner's book Science Projects About the Physics of Sports or Madeline Goodstein's Sports Science Projects: The Physics of Balls in Motion. Both books are aimed at providing hands-on experiments for students in grades 8-12. Though science-based, the experiments involve a lot of mathematics--angles, equations, models, etc. For example, why does a gold ball have dimples? Where is a football's center of gravity? Why does a curve ball curve? How to maximize shooting angles in hockey?