Engineering: A Very Short Introduction

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OUP Oxford, Mar 22, 2012 - Technology & Engineering - 135 pages
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Engineering is part of almost everything we do - from the water we drink and the food we eat, to the buildings we live in and the roads and railways we travel on. In this Very Short Introduction, David Blockley explores the nature and practice of engineering, its history, its scope, and its relationship with art, craft, science, and technology. He considers the role of engineering in the modern world, demonstrating its need to provide both practical and socially acceptable solutions, and explores how engineers use natural phenomena to embrace human needs. From its early roots starting with Archimedes to some of the great figures of engineering such as Brunel and Marconi, right up to the modern day, he also looks at some of its challenges - when things go wrong - such as at Chernobyl. Ultimately, he shows how engineering is intimately part of who and what we are. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
 

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Engineering is all around us. It’s impossible to imagine the modern life without all the products, constructions, tools, systems, and myriad other objects and utilities that have been developed and constructed through the all-encompassing activity that we refer to as engineering. Yet, as it’s often the case, sometimes the most ubiquitous terms and concepts are the ones that are the hardest to define properly. In “Engineering: A Very Short Introduction” David Blockley tries to answer that question, and provide the historical and cultural context for the development and evolution of the engineering techniques, materials, and practices.
Engineering is often associated closely with science, and the distinction between engineering and applied science is all but nonexistent. It is then no coincidence that the major shifts in the engineering tools and techniques have happened as the humanity has gained access and understanding of bigger and wider realms of scientific knowledge. This connection between science and engineering is also reflected in the way that this short book is organized. The main chapters of the book are dedicated to gravity, heat, electromagnetism, information, and systems. They don’t only reflect the historical development, but also the increase in complexity. I only wish there had been a chapter on bioengineering. This nascent field is bound to have significant and unimaginable impact in the upcoming years.
One of this book’s biggest strengths is its willingness to take a look at engineering from a very deep and philosophical point of view. It makes this a very challenging read, and it can also make few sections feel perhaps unduly dry. Nonetheless, the book also provides plenty of concrete examples, insights, and tidbits of knowledge. I’ve learned for the first time that the term engineering is derived from ingenuity, and not from engine. I also understood for the first time how the cellular phone networks work, as well as a few other little engineering secrets. Overall, this is a very interesting book, but if you don’t have the stomach for philosophical musings (broadly understood), you may not like it all that much.
 

Contents

1 From idea to reality
1
2 The age of gravity time for work
18
3 The age of heat you cant get something for nothing
38
4 The age of electromagnetism the power of attraction
59
5 The age of information getting smaller
82
6 The age of systems risky futures
95
Glossary
115
References
119
Further reading
127
Index
131
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About the author (2012)

Professor Blockley is an engineer and an academic scientist. He has been Head of the Department of Civil Engineering and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Bristol. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institution of Structural Engineers, and the Royal Society of Arts. He has written four other books including The Penguin Dictionary of Civil Engineering (2005).

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