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Why Don't Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings?: Flying Animals, Flying Machines, and How They Are Different

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Overview


What do a bumble bee and a 747 jet have in common? It’s not a trick question. The fact is they have quite a lot in common. They both have wings. They both fly. And they’re both ideally suited to it. They just do it differently.

Why Don’t Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings? offers a fascinating explanation of how nature and human engineers each arrived at powered flight. What emerges is a highly readable account of two very different approaches to solving the same fundamental problems of moving through the air, including lift, thrust, turning, and landing. The book traces the slow and deliberate evolutionary process of animal flight—in birds, bats, and insects—over millions of years and compares it to the directed efforts of human beings to create the aircraft over the course of a single century.

Among the many questions the book answers:

  • Why are wings necessary for flight?
  • How do different wings fly differently?
  • When did flight evolve in animals?
  • What vision, knowledge, and technology was needed before humans could learn to fly?
  • Why are animals and aircrafts perfectly suited to the kind of flying they do?

David E. Alexander first describes the basic properties of wings before launching into the diverse challenges of flight and the concepts of flight aerodynamics and control to present an integrated view that shows both why birds have historically had little influence on aeronautical engineering and exciting new areas of technology where engineers are successfully borrowing ideas from animals.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This book lucidly captures the comparative aerodynamics of winged animals and aircrafts with great skill and clarity. This is science writing at its best and is a valuable reference for the specialist as well as for the casual enthusiast of flight."
Sankar Chatterjee, Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Geosciences, Texas Tech University

"David Alexander has produced an astonishingly readable and enjoyable romp through topics in flight mechanics. This book cuts through the obtuse and obscure without sacrificing scholarship."
Catherine Loudon, University of California, Irvine

"You'll find no more transparently clear explanation of all that goes on when you fly in an airplane. Or, in a seamlessly integrated account, what happens when a bird, bat, or bumblebee does the same."
Steven Vogel, James B. Duke Professor, Emeritus, Department of
Biology, Duke University

"This is a well-written and thought-provoking book telling a unique story of both the history and the physics of natural and mechanical flight."
James DeLaurier, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies

Publishers Weekly

This book is for everyone who's ever wondered how something gets into the air, stays there and lands safely. A close look at the aerodynamics of wings introduces the basic concepts of lift, thrust, drag and weight, the basic forces that affect flight. While the principles don't differ between animals and machines, design and purpose do. Bird and insect wings have evolved to provide lift and maneuverability, ward off predators and attract mates. Manmade flyers, on the other hand-even sailplanes-require a separate means of thrust to create lift. Alexander, who teaches biology at the University of Kansas and studies biomechanics, explains how birds and machines hover; how rotary plane and jet engines work; what keeps airplanes, with their rigid wings, stable in the air; and how various tools help pilots fly "blind." Sections on flying predators and aerial combat, as well as human-powered flight, are especially interesting. Extensive references, a glossary and suggested reading should give even novices a good understanding of flight and how it works. B&w illus. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813544793
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 7/26/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


DAVID E. ALEXANDER is an assistant professor of entomology in the ecology and evolutionary biology department at the University of Kansas. He is the author of Nature's Flyers: Birds, Insects, and the Biomechanics of Flight.
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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations
Preface
Acknowledgments
Flying Animals and Flying Machines:Birds of a Feather?
Hey Buddy, Need a Lift?
Power: The Primary Push
To Turn or Not To Turn
A Tail of Two Tails
Flight Instruments
Dispensing with Power: Soaring
Straight Up: Vertical Take-Offs and Hovering
Stoop of the Falcon: Predation and Aerial Combat
Biology Meets Technology Head-On: Ornithopters and Human-Powered Flight
Epilogue: So Why Don't Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings?
Notes
Glossary
Bibliography
Index
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