Cats' Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People

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W. W. Norton & Company, Jan 1, 2000 - Science - 382 pages
2 Reviews
Nature and humans build their devices with the same earthly materials and use them in the same air and water, pulled by the same gravity. Why, then, do their designs diverge so sharply? Humans, for instance, love right angles, while nature's angles are rarely right and usually rounded. Our technology goes around on wheels—and on rotating pulleys, gears, shafts, and cams—yet in nature only the tiny propellers of bacteria spin as true wheels. Our hinges turn because hard parts slide around each other, whereas nature's hinges (a rabbit's ear, for example) more often swing by bending flexible materials. In this marvelously surprising, witty book, Steven Vogel compares these two mechanical worlds, introduces the reader to his field of biomechanics, and explains how the nexus of physical law, size, and convenience of construction determine the designs of both people and nature. "This elegant comparison of human and biological technology will forever change the way you look at each."—Michael LaBarbera, American Scientist
  

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Cats' paws and catapults: mechanical worlds of nature and people

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Nature often comes up with simpler solutions to engineering problems than do human engineers. Does that mean that nature's technology is superior? Arguing that nature can be improved upon, Vogel's comparison of biological and human-made technologies shows how and why. Read full review

Review: Cats' Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People

User Review  - Esther - Goodreads

Fascinating comparisons of the biomechanics of nature and human technology. Disappointingly heavy in evolutionary theory. Read full review

Contents

Noncoincident Worlds
15
Two Schools of Design
20
The Matter of Magnitude
39
Surfaces Angles and Corners
57
The Stiff and the Soft
82
Two Routes to Rigidity
106
Pulling versus Pushing
128
Engines for the Mechanical Worlds
153
About Pumps Jets and Ships
205
Making Widgets
229
Copying in Retrospect
249
Copying Present and Prospective
276
Contrast Convergences and Consequences
289
Notes
313
References
343
Index
363

Putting Engines to Work
177

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About the author (2000)

Steven Vogel is James B. Duke Professor of Biology at Duke University. He is the author of Cats' Paws and Catapults.

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