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Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0306812835
ISBN-10: 0306812835
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

J. E. Gordon, a professor at the University of Reading, is renowned for his research in plastics, crystals, and new materials.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1 edition (July 10, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306812835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306812835
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
My boss gave me this book when I arrived at my first job, and it changed the way I saw the world. It covers the basics of structural engineering from cathedrals to clothing, and does so with a blend of historical references and dry British humor that makes it delightful to read. Only basic math is used. The emphasis is on the basic principles (tension, compression, shear, etc.)and how they apply to real-world examples, ranging from bridge trusses to bias-cut fabrics and bat wings. I'd recommend this book for anyone who's curious about how things work. My sole complaint is that this edition is a bit bulky and might seem intimidating, but that's because the print is fairly large. I preferred the earlier British Penguin edition which was much more compact.
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Format: Paperback
In the wonderful tradition of Sagan, Cousteau and Asimov, Professor Gordon shows us that science and technology need not be abstruse and tedious, but can be made both pleasant and fascinating. Structures, or Why Things Don't Fall Down stands perfectly well on its own, but the best benefits are to be derived when reading it in tandem with its sister publication, The New Science of Strong Materials. In both books, Professor Gordon strikes the difficult balance between the ease of exposition and the exactness of detail that characterises only the very best of scientific popularisations. He combines his technical presentation with a warm and self-deprecating wit that will have you feeling that you are not being lectured to, so much as enjoying an engaging explanation from a friend.
For example, in a typical moment of whimsy, Professor Gordon speculates upon the benefits of attaching army surplus chicken feathers onto motor cars - a suggestion designed to evoke a humourous image, except that his preceding explication on the structural properties of feathers is done so well that it lends the idea a certain fanciful credence. The pages are filled with such moments. Professor Gordon delights in drawing parallels between the unlikeliest of phenomena - how an intelligent reflection on the properties of worms led him to the design of a better anchor bracket, or how his introduction to a circus proprietor's somewhat self-conscious invention ended up improving everything from military aircraft to household doors. Through the liberal use of such anecdotes, he leads us, gently but inexorably, to a fuller understanding of the interconnectedness of the physical world.
While his book deals with abstract ideas, Professor Gordon comes across clearly as a practical man.
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Format: Paperback
I first read both Structures and Gordon's other book, The New Science of Strong Materials, in the early '80's. I have read them several times since, and am constantly trying to find them because I keep giving them away to people. When I read Gordon's explanations of the history and present state of the engineering art, I look at things as diverse as cathedrals and dogs' bladders in a new way. I remember my training in the more equation-heavy disciplines, and I can compare my 16 years of experience in engineering to the words in the book and say, "Oh yes, that's just the way it is," or "Oh, so that's why that happened. Too bad I didn't think of it at the time."
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book could even give Stress Analysis a good name. The author does an exceedingly good job of explaining the property or behavior of a material. He then proceeds to demonstrate the direct relationship between the properties and how the material is utilized and how it affects of the overall design of the structure. The book discusses why construction steel really is the preferred material for most large structures. Comparisons of soft metal chain vs. high tensile strength suspension bridges or bi-plane vs. monoplane design are discussed. I would recommend this for anybody that wants a well rounded basic understanding of why structures are the designed the way they are. The math is at a minimum, the concepts are very well explained and real world examples are used frequently to keep it interesting. The author's career has exposed him to a multitude of design failures and successes. He readily explains them along with his philosophy of design and accident prevention. This is another one of those books that can in a few chapters explain the major goals and problems in the modern field of design and materials science.
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Format: Paperback
This book is widely regarded as a masterpiece, and deservedly so. Thank goodness it's still in print!

From cover to cover, the book is packed with deep and valuable insights into the behavior and design of structures, including the natural structures "designed" by evolutionary processes. And at the same time, the book is written in a delightfully chatty and unpretentious style which makes it a joy to read, and often even something of a page turner.

The ideal audience is probably structural engineers, and even seasoned ones are sure to learn a thing or two. But most interested lay readers can also benefit from the book, and the author has clearly made a sincere effort to help bring the subject within their grasp.

This book gets my highest possible recommendation, and the price is so low that there's no reason to hesitate to purchase it.
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