________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 6 . . . . October 14, 2016


Faster, Higher, Smarter: Bright Ideas That Transformed Sports.

Simon Shapiro. Art by Theo Krynauw & Warwick Goldswain.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2016.
120 pp., pbk., hc., epub & pdf, $16.95 (pbk.), $22.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-813-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-814-2 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55451-815-9 (epub), ISBN 978-1-55451-816-6 (pdf).

Subject Headings:
Sports sciences-Juvenile literature.
Sports-Technological innovations-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

***½ /4



On the night of June 25, 1987, A.J. Hackett was so comfortable in his sleeping bag that he overslept by half an hour. Most people wouldn't be so relaxed, hiding illegally 110 meters (360 feet) off the ground on the second level of the Eiffel Tower. But then again, most people wouldn't have scoped out the security on the tower - making note of gates, fences, locks, and cameras, and timing the guards' routine. Most people also wouldn't have planned how to block security cameras using umbrellas and cardboard, how to distract the guards with a couple of attractive women, or how to sneak over a fence and out of sight in a maintenance area. Oh, and most people wouldn't have wanted to jump off the tower at dawn. But A.J. Hackett isn't most people.

Highly informative and entertaining, Faster, Higher, Smarter is devoted to those people whose ideas have changed sport, and to the science behind the sport. Part history, part anecdote, and part physics lesson, the book covers a variety of inventions and innovations, many of them banned at first, which have enabled athletes to perform at higher levels. These inventions range from clothing and equipment, such as clap skates in speedskating, to techniques such as the V-style in ski jumping and the underwater start in backstroke swimming events. Readers will be introduced to such terms as kinetic and elastic energy, moment of inertia, torsion, angular momentum, output force and inefficient lever.

      Following an introduction, there are 17 chapters, 15 of which highlight different sports. The other two focus on cheating in sports (e.g. steroid use and tampered equipment) and the advantage of statistics over scouts as a method of selecting professional baseball players. Each chapter begins with a specific invention or technique and the event or situation which inspired it, followed by a "Why It Works" section which explains the science behind it. There is also a little video icon with instructions on how to access short online videos related to the topic. The text is conversational in tone, although occasionally some of the scientific explanations can be slightly daunting. Plenty of colour and black and white photos and diagrams enhance the text. Diagrams, especially, are invaluable tools which help to clarify the physics principles behind the featured sport. A table of contents and an index are also provided.

      Some examples of sporting equipment discussed in the book are the flexible fiberglass pole for pole-vaulting (inspired by a tuna fisherman's fishing pole), the hollow aluminum bat for speed and distance in baseball, a lightweight wheelchair with a lower center of mass and a wider wheelbase for stability in wheelchair sports, lightweight skis and tennis rackets, and specialized prosthetic feet designed by the Flex-Foot Company for swimming, skiing and even mountain climbing. Techniques mentioned include the soccer-style kick for speed and power, a hockey slapshot, a skateboard ollie, and cycling positions that reduce wind resistance. There is also an amusing story related to bungy jumping. The annual custom of bungy jumping off a tower in Vanuatu with vines tied around the ankles of the jumpers is said to be based on a legend in which a man who repeatedly mistreated his wife received his just desserts. One day, she climbed a tree to get away from him, and when he followed her up, she jumped. He jumped down after her, but she was clever and had tied vines to her ankles, He, unfortunately, had not and did not survive the fall.

      The final chapter features basketball's Michael Jordan and analyses his amazing jump. To quote one professional player, "He goes up, stops for a cup of coffee, looks over the scenery, and then follows through with a tomahawk jam (a two-handed dunk)."

      Fun, educational and engaging, this book will appeal to sports fans. Even if the physics part of each chapter is not of interest to the reader, Faster, Higher, Smarter is still a most entertaining read.

Highly Recommended.

Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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