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

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W. W. Norton & Company, 2000 - Science - 382 pages
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

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Has human engineering improved on nature? A biologist answers the question. Biomechanics is the discipline that explores nature's answers to what are essentially engineering problems. Vogel (Biology ... Read full review

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


Noncoincident Worlds
Two Schools of Design
The Matter of Magnitude
Surfaces Angles and Corners
The Stiff and the Soft
Two Routes to Rigidity
Pulling versus Pushing
Engines for the Mechanical Worlds
About Pumps Jets and Ships
Making Widgets
Copying in Retrospect
Copying Present and Prospective
Contrast Convergences and Consequences

Putting Engines to Work

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Page 348 - Studies on the morphology and function of the skull in the Boidae (Serpentes). Part 1.

About the author (2000)

Steven Vogel (1940--2015) was James B. Duke Professor of Biology at Duke University. He was a prolific author of popular works on the intersection of physics and biology such as Cats' Paws and Catapults and Prime Mover: A Natural History of Muscle.

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