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Engineering Animals: How Life Worksby Mark Denny
Synopses & Reviews
The alarm calls of birds make them difficult for predators to locate, while the howl of wolves and the croak of bullfrogs are designed to carry across long distances. From an engineer’s perspective, how do such specialized adaptations among living things really work? And how does physics constrain evolution, channeling it in particular directions?
Writing with wit and a richly informed sense of wonder, Denny and McFadzean offer an expert look at animals as works of engineering, each exquisitely adapted to a specific manner of survival, whether that means spinning webs or flying across continents or hunting in the dark—or writing books. This particular book, containing more than a hundred illustrations, conveys clearly, for engineers and nonengineers alike, the physical principles underlying animal structure and behavior.
Pigeons, for instance—when understood as marvels of engineering—are flying remote sensors: they have wideband acoustical receivers, hi-res optics, magnetic sensing, and celestial navigation. Albatrosses expend little energy while traveling across vast southern oceans, by exploiting a technique known to glider pilots as dynamic soaring. Among insects, one species of fly can locate the source of a sound precisely, even though the fly itself is much smaller than the wavelength of the sound it hears. And that big-brained, upright Great Ape? Evolution has equipped us to figure out an important fact about the natural world: that there is more to life than engineering, but no life at all without it.
Book News Annotation:
From an engineering design perspective, a retired aerospace engineer and a consulting engineer present an accessible, engaging account of the adaptations and capabilities of non-human animals. These "great apes" (as they remind readers we are) explain the physical principles behind natural selection-based structure, movement, senses, and thinking of diverse creatures. The book includes illustrations, ample reference material, and further reading. Belknap Press is an imprint of Harvard U. Press. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From an engineer’s perspective, how do specialized adaptations among living things really work? Writing with wit and a richly informed sense of wonder, Denny and Alan offer an expert look at animals—including humans—as works of evolutionary engineering, each exquisitely adapted to a specific manner of survival.
About the Author
Mark Denny is a retired aerospace engineer and the author of Froth: The Science of Beer.Alan McFadzean is an independent consultant.
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