Cats' Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People

Cats' Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People

Pub. Date:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.


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Cats' Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People

"Full of ideas and well-explained principles that will bring new understanding of everyday things to both scientists and non-scientists alike."—R. McNeill Alexander, Nature
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."This elegant comparison of human and biological technology will forever change the way you look at each."—Michael LaBarbera, American Scientist

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393319903
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 01/17/2000
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 1,322,774
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Steven Vogel (1940—2015) was James B. Duke Professor of Biology at Duke University. He was a prolific author of popular works on the intersection of physics and biology such as Cats' Paws and Catapults and Prime Mover: A Natural History of Muscle.

Table of Contents

1.Noncoincident Worlds15
2.Two Schools of Design20
3.The Matter of Magnitude39
4.Surfaces, Angles, and Corners57
5.The Stiff and the Soft82
6.Two Routes to Rigidity106
7.Pulling versus Pushing128
8.Engines for the Mechanical Worlds153
9.Putting Engines to Work177
10.About Pumps, Jets, and Ships205
11.Making Widgets229
12.Copying, in Retrospect249
13.Copying, Present and Prospective276
14.Contrasts, Convergences, and Consequences289

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