Customer Reviews: The New Way Things Work
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on July 8, 2002
My god, this has to be one of my favorite books. When I was a kid, I was FASCINATED (well, I still am) by mechanical things. I must have checked this book out of the library twenty times, and it never got old. It is PACKED with info, the drawings are great, and it is very educational. Well, I was at the library today checking out books for a mechanical engineering class, and there it was on the shelf. I checked it out again for old times sake, and here I am at (to buy my very own copy of course), writing a reveiew. Nuff said. Anyway, if you have a child, boy or girl, old or young, smart or not, it doesn't matter- this book ROCKS!
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on November 27, 1999
My nephew, who is six, thanks me everytime he sees me or talks to me on the phone for sending this book. This is a great book for curious children to "grow into" with their parents. It also helps parents look very smart to their children if they read it first!
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on December 11, 1999
Do you think you know how a lot of things work? Yes? Well, you are probably wrong. I am a Physics Major in college and I thought I knew how a lot of things work. However, when I found this book in my physics professor's office, I fell in love with this book. I ordered for my copy on the same day. This book is good for the kids, but some of the stuff is hard to understand because there are some words like forces or angles. These are hard to understand for kids, but the pictures in this book are good for the curious kids. They may understand some of the stuff. But, I would rate this book for grownups. You will learn how locks work, how airplanes fly, how helicopters can go forward or backward. You will understand the mechanics just by looking at the pictures, but the reading the explanations also helps you understand. This is a nice book to keep at the corner of your bookshelf.
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"The Way Things Work" took almost three years to create. A cute and sometimes silly "Great Wooly Mammoth" makes his appearance throughout the book. The facial expressions and animal antics are at times very amusing.

While the "Mammoth" theme is highlighted, this is a book which discusses serious concepts. They are simply explained in a more entertaining way. In between all the facts, you will suddenly find a page which discusses tusk trimming. "I watched with great curiosity a mammoth that was having its tusks trimmed....." Don't worry, as the story progresses, "velocity" is being explained.

Quite frankly, this book is not only a work of art, it is a compilation of genius. When David Macaulay, Niel Ardley, David Burnie, Peter Luff and Christopher Davis put their minds together for a book project, something amazing happens.

Where they came up with the 384 pages is beyond my comprehension. In fact, only taking three years to write and illustrate such a work, is in itself an incredible feat. Truly, this is a comprehensive, instructive and entertaining reference book for readers of all ages.

Life is too short for reading inferior books. - James Bryce This book is superior in so many ways. It is divided into four main sections: The Mechanics of Movement (inclined plane, levers, wheel and axle, gears and belts, cams and cranks, pulleys, screws, rotating wheels, springs, friction), Harnessing The Elements (floating, flying, pressure power, exploiting heat, nuclear power), Working With Waves (light and images, photography, printing, sound and music, telecommunications), Electricity & Automation (electricity, magnetism, sensors and detectors, computers).

Each page is filled with drawings so you can completely comprehend mechanical principles. David Macaulay takes you from levers to lasers and does it all in a most entertaining and efficient manner. Here is a prize-winning author's brilliantly conceived guide to the principles and workings of hundreds of machines.

~The Rebecca Review
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on May 12, 2000
I bought this CD in the hope that it could help me teach my children science in general and physics in particular. I have a moderate understanding of how things work, but I am woefully undereducated in the scientific principles that underlie those workings. The New Way Things Work gives both: nuts-and-bolts explanations of things and succinct discussion of the underlying principles--and abundant links to go between the two.
There are timelines of machines and their inventions, as well as their inventors. Each machine has a page with a clear picture with the working parts labeled, and sometimes a short animation to further clarify the machine's action. There is a testing feature which is useful, if a bit humbling. The "Research Answer" button posted tantalizingly right at the bottom of each test question is a spur to further research, though I worry about the ethical implications. Does that mammoth think I'm cheating? Does that guy with the mustache and mannerisms of Martin Mull keep track of how many times I "research" an answer, and does that go on my permanent record? Perhaps there should be an on/off toggle.
The links on each machine page to the principles and inventors and vice versa may be where the CD has an advantage over a book, particularly for children. When I'm explaining something to my daughter and she doesn't understand part of the explanation, she wants that missing piece Right Now, and the hot links provide that immediacy. Paging to another part of a book and then loosing her original place frustrates her. That never happens with this CD, because she knows she can always hit the BACK button. It would be even better if there were a FORWARD button like on a browser, because children quickly understand this navigational technique and use it frequently. I notice they pick up and leave off and go back and forth and generally become more involved than with a book.
I was disappointed that the Tele-Prompter was not one of the machines featured. Like others in the television audience in the 1980s, I gaped in wonder as politicians gave huge speeches to live audiences without glancing at their notes. I assumed the glass plates to the right and left of the speaker were security devices to block bullets and flying tomatoes. Also, it would be nice to know how a polygraph works, and whether the polygraph could be combined with a Tele-Prompter to make a more complete machine--what surveyors call a "total station".
The timelines are also quite valuable. You feel better about your own limited understanding of practical things by contemplating such facts as the toilet tank being invented by a contemporary of Shakespeare. And frankly, I think that article could do with a little expansion: where did the flow of water go after it traveled from the newly invented tank of Elizabeth the First's godson? The street outside his window? The River Thames? I know that through my childhood and right up until the time I bought a house I believed that wastes were carried away in pipes in a method involving electricity.
Ever since capsizing a sunfish in 1977, I've wondered how sailboats can be propelled by wind blowing from behind them, and by wind blowing directly into your face as you stand on the deck and gaze at your destination. New Way Things Work provides the answer. Another device it would be interesting to know about is carbon dating and the newer, more accurate (I'm told) argon-argon dating. I want to know the age of the rocks in my back yard. And why haven't we Americans been provided with small, affordable, personal flying devices yet? These and other questions naturally come up; like all good educational tools, this CD raises as many questions as it answers.
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on March 4, 2012
I'm a techie educator. I love the idea of this book. I love the illustrations. But I've seen a lot of people give up on this book when they come across sentences like this one explaining water pressure:

"When the weight of a liquid or gas presses against a surface within the liquid or gas or against the walls of a container, it creates a pressure on the surface or the walls." p.128

Yes, that statement is true, but isn't the intention of this book to engage newcomers? It sounds like they just lifted sentences straight out of a terrible technical manual from the 80s.

I'm no editor, but this seems more effective to me:

"When the weight of a liquid presses against the walls of a container, it creates a pressure on those walls. This can be said for any liquid or gas pressed against any surface."

Isn't that easier to visualize?

Call me crazy, but I think with a little revision, this book could reach a lot more kids and get them interested in math and sciences like no other textbook could. It's just not quite there yet.
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on July 10, 2004
Few books can compare to "The Way Things Work" in the amount which they can teach the curious. Be they old or young, college educated engineers or preschoolers, everyone can pick something out of this book. Trust me; I've seen it from all ends.
When I was six, I loved the mammoths...and learned about simple machines and airplane wings. When I was in high school, I appreciated the mammoths' wit...and learned about automatic transmissions and transistors. Now that I'm in college, I've read the whole thing, and it's still a great reference book, just as entertaining and informative as it was so many years ago. And the mammoths are still funny.
For kids with insatiable curiosity, "The Way Things Work" can be a great and entertaining resource; for everyone who's ever wondered how their car drives, or why their computer works, or how satellite communications happen, it can be an immensely satisfying read.
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on August 29, 2002
This is the best book for childern and adults I have ever read. I recieved "The Way Things Work" When I was in 4th grade. Now I have this newer version. My classmates and I both used it during my College Mechanical Engineering Classes. Everyone can learn from this book it is not just for kids but really belongs on every childs bookshelf.
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on September 24, 2001
I have a very inquisitive daughter. Enough to have me pulling my hair out! I bought this book to keep me sane. This book should be on your child's bookshelf. It is loaded with answers to your child's most typical questions on how things work. A great book!
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on October 28, 1998
My nine-year old son is hooked on this book. He reads it in the morning, after school, at the dinner table, and instead of doing his homework!
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