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The Simple Science of Flight, revised and expanded edition: From Insects to Jumbo Jets (The MIT Press) Paperback – September 4, 2009
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From the smallest gnat to the largest aircraft, all things that fly obey the same aerodynamic principles. In The Simple Science of Flight, Henk Tennekes investigates just how machines and creatures fly: what size wings they need, how much energy is required for their journeys, how they cross deserts and oceans, how they take off, climb, and soar. Fascinated by the similarities between nature and technology, Tennekes offers an introduction to flight that teaches by association. Swans and Boeings differ in numerous ways, but they follow the same aerodynamic principles. Biological evolution and its technical counterpart exhibit exciting parallels. What makes some airplanes successful and others misfits? Why does the Boeing 747 endure but the Concorde now seem a fluke? Tennekes explains the science of flight through comparisons, examples, equations, and anecdotes. The new edition of this popular book has been thoroughly revised and much expanded. Highlights of the new material include a description of the incredible performance of bar-tailed godwits (7,000 miles nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand), an analysis of the convergence of modern jetliners (from both Boeing and Airbus), a discussion of the metabolization of energy featuring Lance Armstrong, a novel treatment of the aerodynamics of drag and trailing vortices, and an emphasis throughout on evolution, in nature and in engineering. Tennekes draws on new evidence on bird migration, new wind-tunnel studies, and data on new airliners. And his analysis of the relative efficiency of planes, trains, and automobiles is newly relevant. (On a cost-per-seat scale, a 747 is more efficient than a passenger car.)
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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"
About the Author
- ASIN : 0262513137
- Publisher : The MIT Press; revised and expanded edition (September 4, 2009)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 201 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780262513135
- ISBN-13 : 978-0262513135
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Grade level : 12 and up
- Item Weight : 14.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 8.86 x 7.1 x 0.56 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #767,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #59 in Aerodynamics (Books)
- #250 in Astronautics & Space Flight
- #737 in Aeronautics & Astronautics (Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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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!
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.
There's nothing on rotary-wing aircraft, or on the pure flying wing, and barely a mention of any high-performance fighters. (He applauds General Dynamics for designing the YF-16 to be lightweight, even though it was the USAF's program requirements which dictated that.) The only appendix is a table of bird migration data. This book's subject coverage is just too myopic to the author's area of research. There's great detail on low-speed, small-scale flyers, but not nearly enough on aviation for a work purportedly on the general science of flight.
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.