John Eric Goff
Gold Medal Physics
The Science of Sports
Johns Hopkins University Press 2009
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.
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