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More On The Science of Sports

Previous columns have reviewed resourses specific to mathematics and sports, including the underlying sciences. Again, if you have resources to add to this list, please let me know.

This column will focus on the mathematical sciences underlying the playing and understanding of various sports. For example, if you like soccer, consider John Wesson's book The Science of Soccer. The text begins with a scientific analysis of the physics of the soccer ball and its bouncing patterns. Then, the focus shifts to overview the science underlying both kicks and throws. Finally, in contrast to other such books, it considers game theoretic ideas, the effect of ruleson the flow of the game, and some interesting statistics.

Brody et al's book The Physics and Technology of Tennis is an extremely comprehensive look at all aspects of tennis. Examples include the physical aspects of a racquet (stability, swingweight, vibration, feel, balance) and strings, scientific aspects of collisions and restitution (ball and racket), ball speeds, science of strokes, ball trajectories and spin, and the drop shot. If you like tennis and the mathematical sciences, I predict you will enjoy this book...but then sometimes over-analysis can steal some of the fun aspects of playing a sport.

Two good follow-up texts specific to baseball would be either Robert Adair's book The Physics of Baseball or Robert Watts & Terry Bahill's Keep Your Eye on the Ball: Curveballs, Knuckleballs, and Fallacies of Baseball. Both books focus on the "flight" of a ball or player, especially the role of stitches on a ball, the effect of backspin or topspin, the important role of hand-eye coordination, bat vibration, the sweetspot, etc. The Watts/Bahill text also includes experiments for students to try.