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 Scorecasting, University of Chicago behavioral economist Tobias Moskowitz teams up with veteran Sports Illustrated writer L. Jon Wertheim to overturn some of the most cherished truisms of sports, and reveal the hidden forces that shape how basketball, baseball, football, and hockey games are played, won and lost.

Drawing from Moskowitz's original research, as well as studies from fellow economists such as bestselling author Richard Thaler, the authors look at: the influence home-field advantage has on the outcomes of games in all sports and why it exists; the surprising truth about the universally accepted axiom that defense wins championships;  the subtle biases that umpires exhibit in calling balls and strikes in key situations; the unintended consequences of referees' tendencies in every sport to "swallow the whistle," and more.

Among the insights that Scorecasting reveals:

   • Why Tiger Woods is prone to the same mistake in high-pressure putting situations that you and I are
   • Why professional teams routinely overvalue draft picks
   • The myth of momentum  or the "hot hand" in sports, and why so many fans, coaches, and broadcasters fervently subscribe to it
   • Why NFL coaches rarely go for a first down on fourth-down situations--even when their reluctance to do so reduces their chances of winning.

In an engaging narrative that takes us from the putting greens of Augusta to the grid iron of a small parochial high school in Arkansas, Scorecasting will forever change how you view the game, whatever your favorite sport might be.
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.
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.
Many athletes are SUPERSTARS.
Many coaches are LEGENDS.
Many moments are CLASSICS.

But which are the best of the best?
Which ten will make THE MAD DOG HALL OF FAME?
“Opining about sports in a spirited fashion is Chris Russo’s specialty.” – Bob Costas

The All-Time Top-Ten Players in Baseball, NFL Football, NBA Basketball, College Basketball, College Football
The Top-Ten Coaches of All Time
The All-Time Top-Ten Movers and Shakers in Sports
The Top-Ten Sports Moments in History of All Time
The Top-Ten Sports Venues of All Time

It’s The Big Question in the world of sports: Who’s number one?

Which player? Which coach? Which team? Now, the authors of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller, The Mad Dog 100: The Greatest Sports Arguments of All Time, get down and dirty to tackle the central issue that consumes every sports fan: Which players, teams, venues, and moments would make the top-ten list of all time?

With characteristic candor, explosive energy, and unquestioned expertise, top-rated sports talk radio personality Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo tackles the tough questions head-on and creates his own personal Hall of Fame. But the Mad Dog sets the bar much higher than usual—only ten honorees are inducted in each category—so plenty of all-time greats will find themselves on the outside looking in.

Russo ranks Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, and Walter Johnson…and one of them doesn’t even make the cut. He ranks Jerry Rice and Dick Butkus and Mean Joe Greene…and try telling one of them he’ll have to pay admission to get into this Hall of Fame. He takes sides and ranks Fenway Park ahead of Yankee Stadium…or will it be the other way around? He names the single greatest sports moment of all time, across all sports…and no, it’s not what you think.

Each enticing chapter is packed full of intriguing facts and sidebars, including tidbits that will surprise even the most seasoned sports fan. The magic of Russo’s analysis is not just an explanation of who makes the cut and who does not–but why. THE MAD DOG HALL OF FAME is essential reading–the kind of book every sports enthusiast will want to have on hand as a quick reference guide to the best of the best. Russo and St. John have crafted an entertaining, fast-paced, and provocative tour of the world of sports, chock-full of close calls and tough choices designed not to end arguments…but to start them.
THE ESSENTIAL BOOK FOR ANY SPORTS FAN, FROM ONE OF THE REIGNING KINGS OF SPORTS TALK RADIO, CHRISTOPHER “MAD DOG” RUSSO

Which was the greater achievement, Ted Williams’s .406 season or Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak?

Who’d be left standing in a battle between Joe Louis and Mohammed Ali?

Which NBA team was the greatest of all time—the ’66–’67 Celtics? The ’71–’72 Lakers? What about the ’95–’96 Bulls?

Who would dominate the ultimate Pebble Beach showdown—Ben Hogan or Tiger Woods?

Who was the most important athlete of the twentieth century?

You’re a sports fan. You love a good argument and you’ll defend your position as fervently as Michael Jordan at crunch time. You’ll analyze games and terrible calls, throw out stats to prove a point, and heatedly debate whether a player is an overachiever—or merely overpaid.
Now, in his long-awaited and completely original book, Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo sets up and breaks down the one hundred greatest sports arguments of all time. In classic Mad Dog style, each chapter tackles a classic sports debate and takes sides with the clear, step-by-step opinions that have made Russo one of the top radio personalities in the country. The Mad Dog 100 covers it all: from baseball (Who really should go to Cooperstown?), to basketball (Chamberlain, Russell, or Shaq: who’s the NBA’s most dominant center ever?), to football (Who is the greatest NFL quarterback ever?), to hockey (What are the greatest hockey dynasties of all time?)—and is a catch-all of other crucial modern-day sports questions like: Is instant replay really worth it? What’s the true role of performance-enhancing drugs? Are salary caps really necessary?
Whether you’re reading The Mad Dog 100 or debating these sports arguments with friends, this is the definitive companion for any self-respecting sports fan.
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