Ballparking: Practical Math for Impractical Sports Questions

Santos, Aaron. Ballparking: Practical Math for Impractical Sports Questions. Running Pr. 2012. 220p. ISBN 9780762443451. pap. $15. MATH
What does a sports-loving mathematician do in his free time? If you’re Aaron Santos, you gamely attempt to answer questions like, How many swimmers can fit inside an Olympic-sized pool before it overflows? About 2000. I think young minds will take a special shine to the explanations as Santos presents them because he shows his work (as my math teachers used to say). A few pages of explanation present the hypotheses, explain the basics of calculating the problem (including the math symbols that I don’t understand but enjoy looking at), and arrive at a solution. Thus, we get answers to the titular impractical sports questions such as Assuming the rumor about rat poop in baseball hot dogs is true, what’s the total mass of rat poop consumed in MLB ballparks each season? About 54 tons. An interesting series explores the number of teeth lost by NHL Hockey players in the 90 years since its inception‚ about 27,000! Leading to a total toothpaste savings of $1.8 million! Along the way, Santos admirably explains scientific notation, that all-star running back Emmett Smith really only ran 10.4 career miles, and losing ten pounds of unsightly fat requires climbing 120,000 stairs.

This review appeared in Library Journal’s Books for Dudes column: Men in Captivity, Ode de Bradbury & Heavy Metal for the Coffee Table on July 3, 2012; the galley was shredded on August 29, 2012.

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