From the Publisher
"Clear and coherent...refreshingly clear-eyed and unsentimental." Washington Post.
"A highly readable look at cities that casually ranges from mudhuts to glass-and-steel skyscrapers, from the atomic structure of iron to the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago." San Francisco Chronicle.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
After last year's brave foray into the biology of the abortion controversy in The Facts of Life (written with Harold Morowitz), Trefil returns to the general science territory he staked out in A Scientist at the Seashore. This city-mouse version of that title is an equally felicitous adventure for the science lover isolated from nature's countryside lab. The physical sciences predominate here as Trefil offers deft analogies to explain invisible forces like gravity in building architecture, e.g., comparing masonry structures and skyscrapers to crustaceans (with exoskeletons) and humans, whose weight-bearing skeleton is internal. He explains the atomic structure of materials that underlie every corner of a city block and includes other systems like power grids on the tour. The addition of a futurist urban vision adds little to the text but does not mitigate Trefil's particular talent for lively explanation. Illustrated. (Jan.)
Trefil, author of the useful 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Science ( LJ 12/91) and coauthor of Science Matters ( LJ 1/91), takes the reader on a metaphorical stroll through the modern city. With chapters on window glass, urban sprawl, transportation, infrastructure, and the like, the first half of the book is interesting, illuminating, and gently written. The second half, in which Trefil imagines the city, suburb, and space colony of the future, is for the most part refreshingly down to earth, dabbling only modestly in science fiction. This book will be useful for those whose time and energy is spent in the city but who lack an engineering background. An excellent addition to general collections, especially at the secondary level.-- Mark L. Shelton, Athens, Ohio
School Library Journal
YA-Trefil states that a city is an environment built by one of nature's creatures, man. Therefore, it is a ``natural system, and we can study it the same way we study other natural systems.'' Whether or not readers accept this premise, the resultant study is fascinating. Trefil leads readers through the history of cities as a result of the development of various technologies and humanity's needs. Each chapter is filled with scientific facts. On virtually every page, however, is a little nugget of information that adds spice to the mixture of physical laws or engineering truths. For example, insects fly higher in urban areas as a result of the higher levels of the hotter air. The opening chapters describe the development of various technologies such as steel, glass-making, structural engineering, or subways and the resulting changes in cities because of them, while the last sections describe future possibilities. The book can be read, and very enjoyably too, straight through. It can, as well, be used for research papers. It contains wonderful descriptions of scientific processes. The author stresses the need for understanding the laws of nature as technologies develop, as opposed to the use of ``clever techniques,'' and he makes the learning of many of these laws almost painless.-Susan H. Woodcock, King's Park Library, Burke, VA