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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-09-02 07:20
Cats’ Paws and Catapults by Steven Vogel
Cats’ Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People - Kathryn K. Davis,Steven Vogel

TITLE: Cats’ Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People

 

AUTHOR: Steven Vogel

 

DATE PUBLISHED: 2000

 

FORMAT: Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780393319903

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DESCRIPTION:

"Nature and humans build their devices with the same earthly materials and use them in the same air and water, pulled by the same gravity. Why, then, do their designs diverge so sharply? Humans, for instance, love right angles, while nature's angles are rarely right and usually rounded. Our technology goes around on wheels—and on rotating pulleys, gears, shafts, and cams—yet in nature only the tiny propellers of bacteria spin as true wheels. Our hinges turn because hard parts slide around each other, whereas nature's hinges (a rabbit's ear, for example) more often swing by bending flexible materials. In this marvelously surprising, witty book, Steven Vogel compares these two mechanical worlds, introduces the reader to his field of biomechanics, and explains how the nexus of physical law, size, and convenience of construction determine the designs of both people and nature. "

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REVIEW:

 

This is an interesting and informative, scholarly, comparative overview of the difference between the way nature and humans engineer and manufacture things, the differences in the substances each uses to make those things, and the possibilities of why man and nature make things differently. Vogel has a clear, easy to understand writing style and provides many examples and diagrams to illustrate a point.

Other books:
~How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls: Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future by David L. Hu
~The Gecko’s Foot: How Scientists are Taking a Leaf from Nature's Book by Peter Forbes

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review 2018-04-17 08:36
CONCRETE PLANET by Robert Courland
Concrete Planet: The Strange and Fascinating Story of the World's Most Common Man-Made Material - Robert Courland

TITLE:  Concrete Planet:  The Strange and Fascinating Story

             of the World's Most Common Man-Made Material

 

AUTHOR:  Robert Courland

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2011

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:  978-1-61614-482-1

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From the blurb:

"Concrete: We use it for our buildings, bridges, dams, and roads. We walk on it, drive on it, and many of us live and work within its walls. But very few of us know what it is. We take for granted this ubiquitous substance, which both literally and figuratively comprises much of modern civilization’s constructed environment; yet the story of its creation and development features a cast of fascinating characters and remarkable historical episodes. This book delves into this history, opening readers’ eyes at every turn.

In a lively narrative peppered with intriguing details, author Robert Corland describes how some of the most famous personalities of history became involved in the development and use of concrete—including King Herod the Great of Judea, the Roman emperor Hadrian, Thomas Edison (who once owned the largest concrete cement plant in the world), and architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Courland points to recent archaeological evidence suggesting that the discovery of concrete directly led to the Neolithic Revolution and the rise of the earliest civilizations. Much later, the Romans reached extraordinarily high standards for concrete production, showcasing their achievement in iconic buildings like the Coliseum and the Pantheon. Amazingly, with the fall of the Roman Empire, the secrets of concrete manufacturing were lost for over a millennium.

The author explains that when concrete was rediscovered in the late eighteenth century it was initially viewed as an interesting novelty or, at best, a specialized building material suitable only for a narrow range of applications. It was only toward the end of the nineteenth century that the use of concrete exploded. During this rapid expansion, industry lobbyists tried to disguise the fact that modern concrete had certain defects and critical shortcomings. It is now recognized that modern concrete, unlike its Roman predecessor, gradually disintegrates with age. Compounding this problem is another distressing fact: the manufacture of concrete cement is a major contributor to global warming.

Concrete Planet is filled with incredible stories, fascinating characters, surprising facts, and an array of intriguing insights into the building material that forms the basis of the infrastructure on which we depend."

 

There isn't much to say about this book that hasn't already been mentioned in the blurb.  The book is a well-written, accessible and enjoyable history of concrete and some of the structures built with it.  I did feel the history of concrete in the 20th century dealt more with the people involved than what the concrete was actually used for.   It would also have been nice if the author had inserted chemical equations etc - at least as an appendix - but otherwise it's an informative book about the subject matter.

 

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review 2018-04-04 08:50
BUILT by Roma Agrawal
Built: The Hidden Stories Behind our Structures - Roma Agrawal

TITLE:  Built: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures


AUTHOR:  Roma Agrawal


DATE PUBLISHED:  2018


FORMAT:  ebook


ISBN-13:  978-1-4088-7034-1

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In "Built", Roma Agrawal conveys her passion for structural engineering - for building bridges and skyscrapers.  The book is a mix of personal anecdotes regarding her experience as an engineer, stories of historical engineering feats, and a smattering of engineering concepts.  The writing style is fairly personable and chatty.  I found the information regarding the historical engineering feats the most interesting, but was ultimately disappointed in the superficial (and minimal) treatment of engineering concepts.   This would probably make a good, basic (if somewhat superficial) introductory book about sturctural engineering for someone who knows nothing about engineering or architecture, and would like to know a little more without the physics and maths.  In short, this is an enjoyable but superficial read.

 

 

OTHER RECOMMENDED BOOKS:

-Why Buildings Stand Up: The Strength of Architecture by Mario Salvadori

-Structures or Why Things Don't Fall Down by James Edward Gordon

-Science and the City: The Mechanics Behind the Metropolis by Laurie Winkless

-Atoms Under the Floorboards: The Surprising Science Hidden in Your Home by Chris Woodford


 

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review 2017-12-07 06:50
Science and the City by Laurie Winkless
Science and the City: The Mechanics Behind the Metropolis - Laurie Winkless

TITLE:  Science and the City

 

AUTHOR:  Laurie Winkless

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2017

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9781472913234

 

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Science and the City is a rather superficial, but interesting look at how cities function. Topics covered include the physics and materials required for building skyscrapers; the generation and transmission of electricity; water purification and transport; sewage systems; roads; bridges; trains and train tracks; cars; and the various means that humans connect to each other (internet, satellites, food distribution, finances, time). A rather useful aspect of the book was the division of each chapter into a "today" section and a "tomorrow" section. The "today" section covering how cities function currently, and the "tomorrow" section covering new research and future technologies. So there are a fair amount of interesting future "goodies" to look up and research further.

 

The author's enthusiasm and bubbliness make this book an entertaining and informative reading experience provided you aren't expecting too many technical details and don't mind an informal writing style. Thankfully there is no running fashion commentary or excessive interviews!

 

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