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Cats' Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People (1998)

by Steven Vogel

Other authors: Kathryn K. Davis (Illustrator)

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223195,953 (3.29)1
Human technology has taken 10,000 years to develop; natures mechanical designs are billions of years old. Both technologies share the same physical environment but produce vastly different results. Human designers love right angles, but nature is typically rounded and its angles are diverse. We use wheels in numerous ways, yet nature's only true wheels lie in bacteria. We prefer to make surface ships, while nature swims. Our hinges turn because their parts slide, whereas natural hinges (such as a rabbit's ear) turn by bending their flexible materials.… (more)
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This book is about biomechanics: it compares the mechanical solutions used by people and by nature. There are huge differences between the two, and perhaps something we could learn from the nature. Of course, that's what people have tried to do for thousands of years, with varying success - flying is probably one of the best examples of cases where not emulating nature lead to success.

Vogel has plenty of material and while it all is rather interesting in theory, I found the book somewhat boring and finished it by browsing through it rather swiftly. The dry text just couldn't hold my interest. I wouldn't recommend the book unless you're really interested in the topic. This isn't one of those excellent popular science books that makes you interest in its topic: I believe you need to have previous interest in mechanics to make Cat's Paws and Catapults work. (Review based on the Finnish translation.)

(Original review at my review blog) ( )
  msaari | Dec 30, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Steven Vogelprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davis, Kathryn K.Illustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Human technology has taken 10,000 years to develop; natures mechanical designs are billions of years old. Both technologies share the same physical environment but produce vastly different results. Human designers love right angles, but nature is typically rounded and its angles are diverse. We use wheels in numerous ways, yet nature's only true wheels lie in bacteria. We prefer to make surface ships, while nature swims. Our hinges turn because their parts slide, whereas natural hinges (such as a rabbit's ear) turn by bending their flexible materials.

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W.W. Norton

An edition of this book was published by W.W. Norton.

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