- Paperback: 421 pages
- Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1 edition (July 10, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0306812835
- ISBN-13: 978-0306812835
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 104 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down 1st Edition
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"It is really, really good if you want a primer on structural design."―Elon Musk
"Rich and readable...personal, witty, and ironic."―Scientific American
"Here we have the conversation in the unbuttoned mood of a learned engineer with wide sympathies about his art, its history, its range, and the silly things which happen. It reads easily and has immense charm."―Architect's Journal
About the Author
J. E. Gordon, formerly a professor at the University of Reading, was renowned for his research in plastics, crystals, and new materials.
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A very interesting book, covering a wide field of topics, from the ground up you might say.
Basic concepts of forces are addressed. Compression, tension, shear and torsion forces, and their occurrence in everything from bridges, ancient coliseums, trees, boats and human biology. This, the author does very well; constantly interweaving the effects of various types of strains and stresses and fractures as they occur in wood construction and metal beams, as well as human skeletons and arteries.
Reasons for, and types of failure are described for wood, concrete, boat sails, steel, femurs and aortas. Advantageous shapes of design for handling wind and accepting impacts are given, and reasons for spoke wheels. Critical and safe limits of fatigue and fracture are described…historical cases are offered, describing why early aero planes crashed and bridges fell down, and why boats capsize.
Cautions are pointed out. Over design of repair: The repair must work in harmony with the repaired material, and not be so unyielding that it works against it. So many invisible forces of tension and compression are at play, and violation of acceptable limits must be watched for when they manifest in fractures.
Different approaches to bridge trusses are explained, not so much mathematically, but in concepts of load bearing and the transference of force throughout the truss. By way of example, Bowstring bridges seem quite clever in design, where the internal force of the arch pulls the roadway below it taught so that the whole thing is held in equilibrium like a bow and arrow on a giant scale.
The all important “thrust line” is a constant theme from chapter to chapter. Now I know why those old cathedrals have so many spires and spooky statues way up there, and it’s not for warding off evil spirits, it’s because they’re heavy.
There are photographs, all clumped together in the middle of the book. Black and white, kind of blurry, but still a helpful aid. Very nice drawings, not blurry, and graphs are abundant in all chapters to help visualize the topics being discussed.
These and many more topics and application fill this book, none of it came across as boring or dry.
Beyond the final chapter, a few concepts are given a light mathematical treatment. Moments in I-beams, deflections in cantilevers and so forth.
The pages are made of sturdy heavy paper, the printing is nice size and clear for those who require reading glasses, with ample space around the print for making marginal notes.
Reminds me of Richard Feynman in his knowledge and his ability to teach a complex topic..
BTW this is on the recommended book list of Elon Musk. That's a nice endorsement.
It's as close to a representation of how science is actually done as I've seen. Very unique.
FYI though, the guy tends to get a bit verbose and it sometimes feels like words were added to make his stream of consciousness writing make sense to others, but not enough words were taken away later.
One of my chief recreational interests is the design and construction of experimental aircraft, and pretty much every topic discussed in this book is pertinent to that activity. In particular, the sections on work of fracture and crack propagation are explained better here than in any design book I've ever read. A must-read in my opinion for anyone involved in structural or mechanical designs.
However, I didn't like the poor job done turning this into an ebook. Many of the scanned illustrations were of poor quality and the text had many mistakes caused by poor optical character recognition (OCR) and poor proofreading. Luckily the author's intent was usually clear, even though the OCR errors were plentiful.
I was surprised to gain an important bit of understanding from this, that as our level of technology advances, the production of engineering materials becomes increasingly energy-intensive, and the economy does as well.
Read this; it's fun, and you'll gain a new appreciation of all kinds of things you see every day.