Newton's Football: The Science Behind America's Game

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In the bestselling tradition of Freakonomics and Scorecasting comes a clever and accessible look at the big ideas underlying the science of football. 
 
Did you hear the one about the MacArthur genius physicist and the NFL coach? It’s not a joke. It’s actually an innovative way to understand chaos theory, and the remarkable complexity of modern professional football.
 
In Newton’s Football, journalist and New York Times bestselling author Allen St. John and TED Speaker and former Yale professor Ainissa Ramirez explore the unexpected science behind America’s Game. Whether it’s Jerry Rice finding the common ground between quantum physics and the West Coast offense or an Ivy League biologist explaining—at a granular level—exactly how a Big Mac morphs into an outside linebacker, Newton’s Football illuminates football—and science—through funny, insightful stories told by some of the world’s sharpest minds.
 
With a clear-eyed empirical approach—and an exuberant affection for the game—St. John and Ramirez address topics that have long beguiled scientists and football fans alike, including:
 
• the unlikely evolution of the football (or, as they put it, “The Divinely Random Bounce of the Prolate Spheroid”)
• what Vince Lombardi has in common with Isaac Newton
• how the hardwired behavior of monkeys can explain a head coach’s reluctance to go for it on fourth-down
• why a gruesome elevator accident jump-started the evolution of placekicking
• how Teddy Roosevelt saved football using the same behavioral science concept that Dreamworks would use to save Shrek
• why woodpeckers don’t get concussions
• how better helmets actually made the game more dangerous
 
Every Sunday the NFL shares a secret with only its savviest fans: The game isn’t just a clash of bodies, it’s a clash of ideas. The greatest minds in football have always possessed an instinctual grasp of science, understanding the big ideas and gritty realities that inform the game’s rich past, as well as its increasingly uncertain future.
 
Blending smart reporting, counterintuitive creativity, and compelling narrative, Newton’s Football takes gridiron analysis to the next level, giving fans a book that entertains, enlightens, and explains the game anew.

Praise for Newton’s Football
 
“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


From the Hardcover edition.
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About the author

An award-winning journalist, Allen St. John is the author of seven books, including The Billion Dollar Game and Clapton’s Guitar, and co-author of The Mad Dog 100. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Men's Journal, Maxim, Playboy, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, Esquire.com, theatlantic.com, and Salon.com, and he blogs for Forbes.com. His work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. A graduate of the University of Chicago, he lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with his family.
 
Ainissa G. Ramirez, Ph.D., is dedicated to making science fun for people of all ages. She is the author of the TED Book Save Our Science, based on her TED talk on improving science education. She has also been an engineering professor at Yale University. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University in materials science and engineering and holds several patents, one of which was awarded MIT’s top 100 young innovators award.


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Additional Information

Publisher
Ballantine Books
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Published on
Nov 19, 2013
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780345545152
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Public Policy / General
Science / Physics / General
Sports & Recreation / Football
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In 1994, Eric Clapton came across a Wayne Henderson guitar in a recording studio and decided on the spot that he had to have one. Rarer than Stradivarius violins, these musical works of art are built from near-extinct Brazilian Rosewood, Appalachian spruce, black ebony, and fine mother-of-pearl. With Henderson's keen ear for the vibrations of each piece of wood he uses, each note that comes out of them has the power of a cannon and the sweetness of maple syrup.
In Clapton's Guitar, Allen St. John recounts how a perfect acoustic guitar comes into the world and how an artist gauges perfection. Wayne Henderson, master luthier and genius in blue jeans, will tell you that he simply puts penknife to wood and carves away "everything that isn't a guitar." This is the story of a master artist, set deep in the mountains of southwestern Virginia in a brick, one-story guitar shop, as busy and chaotic inside as it is simple outside. The space is well-lighted, cluttered with power tools, air hoses, and guitar bodies in various stages of completion. It is in this modest shop that Wayne Henderson crafts some of the most highly coveted acoustic guitars on earth, including one very special instrument he built for Eric Clapton.
Normally, there is a ten-year wait for a Henderson guitar, and St. John finds there are no exceptions even for an iconic figure like Clapton. But seeing it as a shortcut to getting his own guitar done, St. John jump-starts the process, and then takes readers with him on a mesmerizing journey into the heart of high-end instrument making with the man The Washington Post calls the "Mad Scientist of Mountain Music." Henderson, a small-town wise man, is not only the star of this book as a master guitar maker but also is the star of any stage he sets foot on as a master guitar player, equally at home at Carnegie Hall or the local VFW hall. Around this drolly humorous man circulates a small coterie of colorful characters and inspired musicians, who welcome you for an all-too-brief visit. By book's end, you too will want to be Wayne Henderson's friend.
In a rich tapestry of folklore and folksiness, St. John tells the story of building the Clapton guitar in loving detail, from the centuries-old forests where great tonewood grows, to the auction floor of Christie's where one of Clapton's guitars commands over $700,000. It's also a loving look at Wayne's corner of the world, the Blue Ridge mountain hamlets where American traditional music was born, and of Wayne's hometown of Rugby, Virginia, population 7, where the winding roads have kept progress at bay.
Whether you love old-time music, unplugged rock, traditional American craftsmanship, or simply gifted storytelling, Clapton's Guitar is an engaging work that you will want to savor and share with friends.
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