- Series: The MIT Press
- Paperback: 216 pages
- Publisher: The MIT Press; revised and expanded edition edition (September 4, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780262513135
- ISBN-13: 978-0262513135
- ASIN: 0262513137
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 28 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #485,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Simple Science of Flight: From Insects to Jumbo Jets (The MIT Press) revised and expanded edition Edition
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"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).
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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!
Underlying all forms of flight, whether you're talking about gnats or 747s, are a very few simple algebraic equations that describe the tradeoffs between mass, area, drag, speed, lift, aspect ratio and other variables the reader is probably already familiar with. Using these equations, the author can explain why a 747 has to fly within a certain range of speeds at a given altitude, why a hummingbird has to eat so much, and how sea birds can cruise ofor hours while exerting very little energy. This book belongs on the shelf of every aviation enthusiast, and, I would venture to say, every birder and ornithologist as well.
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.