John Eric Goff

Gold Medal Physics

The Science of Sports

Johns Hopkins University Press 2009

New Books in MedicineNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ScienceNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in SportsNew Books Network August 15, 2011 Bruce Berglund

The instructor of my freshman physics course fit the stereotype of a physics professor: unkempt white hair, black glasses case in the breast pocket...

The instructor of my freshman physics course fit the stereotype of a physics professor: unkempt white hair, black glasses case in the breast pocket of his short-sleeved shirt, thick German accent, and a tendency to mumble to himself while mulling over formula on the chalkboard. I was not his most attentive student, and finished the term with a grade of C (for which I was ecstatically grateful). Judging from his book Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), I imagine that my physics experience would have been much more enjoyable if John Eric Goff had been my professor.

Eric’s enthusiasm for both science and sports is evident in the book, as he explains concepts and laws of physics by analyzing well-known athletic feats. In the interview, we talk about Doug Flutie’s miraculous touchdown pass, Bob Beamon’s record-breaking long jump, and David Beckham’s bending free kicks. As Eric explains, his aim is not to turn the performances of athletes into purely mechanical processes. Instead, his analysis offers a new perspective and appreciation for what athletes can accomplish. And you’ll also pick up some fascinating nuggets to share with your friends, such as why the players at the 2010 World Cup complained about the ball, and why using a baseball without laces would bring a drop in home runs.

After listening to the interview, check out Eric’s blog, where he gave his stage-by-stage predictions for the winning times in the this year’s Tour de France–with impressive accuracy.

And please link to the Facebook page of New Books in Sports, where you can tell us with you think of the interviews, get announcements of new podcasts, and find links to recent, thoughtful sports writing.

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