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The Simple Science of Flight: From Insects to Jumbo Jets Paperback – September 4, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0262513135 ISBN-10: 0262513137 Edition: revised and expanded edition

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; revised and expanded edition edition (September 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262513137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262513135
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #419,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"This was a great little book when it came out in its original edition; this new version is even better, as it contains both Henk's homage to his favorite flying machine (Boeing 747) and explanations based on some of the unexpected results of recent experiments with bird flight (including a phenomenal gliding jackdaw). Read it, then watch the birds and planes, and then dip into it again and again." --Vaclav Smil, University of Manitoba, and author of Global Catastrophes and Trends "One gets a fine sense of how so much of aircraft design--whether by humans or by evolution--depends on size and mission. This new version of The Simple Science of Flight broadens the enlightenment that so many of us found appealing in its predecessor. It yields even more of that satisfying 'now I understand what's happening' rather than the usual 'how brilliant those designers must be.' And I know of no book that derives such an awesome wealth of insight from such simple quantification. Beyond being informative, it provides pleasant reading--for any one who travels by air, watches animals fly, or dreams of learning to fly." --Steven Vogel, James B. Duke Professor, Emeritus, Duke University

About the Author

Henk Tennekes is Director of Research Emeritus at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, Emeritus Professor of Meteorology at the Free University (VU) in Amsterdam, and Emeritus Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. He is the coauthor of A First Course in Turbulence (MIT Press, 1972).

Customer Reviews

Really easy to understand.
GearGuy
The author muses about all manner of flying animals and machines, and comes up with all sorts of interesting comparisons and back-of-the-envelope calculations.
Paul Bianchi
My suggestion is - wade through those first few pages and you will be rewarded.
John A. Renningjohnre

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Pardey on February 13, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is detailed knowledge in this book, of necessity that means formulae and definitions of force , power, energy etc but if you want an accessible way of leaning about the nature of birds and aircraft and the physics that make them so different and so similar this is a short and excellent volume to start.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John A. Renningjohnre on April 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a very interesting book and I highly recommend it. It explains the science of flight primarily about birds and jet airliners. Don't think that the science of the flight of birds and of jet airliners is related? Yes they are, and this book explains why. Please see the reviews of his earlier book which this is an expansion of. I pretty much agree with those reviews which certainly apply to this expanded book.

There is a certain minimum degree of knowledge about science and mathematics (algebra) that is helpful but not necessary to enjoy this book.

There is perhaps only one negative comment I would make on the book and that is that it could use the help of a good editor. I suspect that the author, a professor of meteorology, probably said - the book is fine, it doesn't need an editor and if people have problems with it, that's their problem not mine. If the book were better edited, it would probably make it more appealing to readers who might be turned off on it after a few pages. My suggestion is - wade through those first few pages and you will be rewarded.

One other comment. His discussion about the units used in the equations is correct but somewhat confusing. He uses the newton as a unit of force, which a causal reader may not be familiar with. The confusion arises from not explaining the common (non-scientific) use of grams, kilograms, etc as units of weight. In science, grams, kilograms etc are units of mass not weight. Mass times gravity (the constant g) is weight (weight is a force, and measured in newtons). This relationship is not clearly explained.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eduardo Canales on February 20, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Haven't read it through but it is really good so far. The author keeps referring to real birds in order to compare to modern jetliners and other man made craft.
It corrects misconceptions on the nature of flight with actual equations that do make sense and boils everything down to how things do work in terms of actual power, force, speed, energy.
A real gem.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By GearGuy on November 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an excellent intro book for those who want to study aerodynamics or aeronautical engineering; for two reasons.
Firstly the author explains many principles and relationships using simple terms; lift, drag, stall, etc. Really easy to understand. Secondly, he uses the METRIC system (kg, m, etc.) in all examples; as one who had to learn all this in the ponderous and illogical Imperial system (pounds, feet, etc.), it was a REAL eye opener how much EASIER all the analyses and conversions are in the metric system. When I'm doing my own 'back of the envelope' calculations these days I always do them in metric units; and I suggest you do also.
The only small weakness in the book would not be noticed by 99.9% of the readership, and I only mention this for those deeply into this subject.. There is some weakness in the author's understanding of actual aeronautics (vs. the mathematics of which he has mastered). For example, he considers the use of Bernouli's principle a "polite fiction" because it can't explain "how planes fly upside down"(1), or "how the sheet-metal blades of a home ventilator or an agricultural windmill work"(2). Well, the first case (1) IS Bernouli because un-cambered symmetrical wings can generate upwards lift while the plane flies upside down but the wing is at a positive angle of attack. In (2) the author is referring to simple kinetic energy transfer, such as water pushing the blades of a water-mill; this is actually not Bernouli's issue in the first place.
Anyway, these small issues do not take away from the book as a whole; in fact the astute reader will simply research more using this book as an excellent, highly recommended intro text. As I've said about other reviews recently; how I wish I had this in college!! Kudo's Mr. Tennekes!
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By sandro tropiano on February 2, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Agreeable and often gripping reading, this book has popular scientific purposes, keeping strictly scientific in language and showing method: at the start the physical quantities used are defined, then these quantities are put in diagrams to show the relations between them and the author makes these diagrams very telling.
The writing is in general flowing and the communication is forceful but in at least one case it gives rise to some perplexity: ". . . creating a region of reduced pressure on the top surface (a kind of suction), witch pulls the passing air downward." (pg. 5).
In the same paragraph Tennekes rails against the "polite fiction and misapprehension" told by high school teachers to explain the generation of lift. (I am pushed to ask where teachers learn these things?)
The range of arguments touched is very wide: dimensions of wings from insects to big airplanes; long distance migration of several kinds of birds; comparative analysis of energy consumption between birds, cars, trains and jets . . . all explained through the laws of flight introduced in the first chapter. A brief amusing and instructive paragraph is devoted to the stability of a paper airplane.
The amount of figures is very useful for the comprehension and the figures of birds are lovely.
The public target of this book is very wide, and actually the book could be read by everyone, but with some rudiment of physics or with a more deep reading of diagrams you will have more benefit.

Sandro Girolamo Tropiano, member of "Naturalmentescienza.it" editorial staff.
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