Glimpses of Creatures in Their Physical Worlds

Princeton University Press
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Glimpses of Creatures in Their Physical Worlds offers an eye-opening look into how the characteristics of the physical world drive the designs of animals and plants. These characteristics impose limits but also create remarkable and subtle opportunities for the functional biology of organisms. In particular, Steven Vogel examines the size and scale, and trade-offs among different physical processes. He pays attention to how the forms and activities of animals and plants reflect the materials available to nature, and he explores the unique constraints and possibilities provided by fluid flow, structural design, and environmental forces.

Each chapter of the book investigates a facet of the physical world, including the drag on small projectiles; the importance of diffusion and convection; the size-dependence of acceleration; the storage, conduction, and dissipation of heat; the relationship among pressure, flow, and choice in biological pumps; and how elongate structures tune their relative twistiness and bendiness. Vogel considers design-determining factors all too commonly ignored, and builds a bridge between the world described by physics books and the reality experienced by all creatures. Glimpses of Creatures in Their Physical Worlds contains a wealth of accessible information related to functional biology, and requires little more than a basic background in secondary-school science and mathematics.

Drawing examples from creatures of land, air, and water, the book demonstrates the many uses of biological diversity and how physical forces impact biological organisms.

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About the author

Steven Vogel is James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Biology at Duke University. His numerous books include Comparative Biomechanics (Princeton), and Cats' Paws and Catapults (Norton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Aug 24, 2009
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781400833863
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Language
English
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Genres
Medical / Physiology
Science / Life Sciences / Biophysics
Science / Life Sciences / Developmental Biology
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
Science / Life Sciences / Zoology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Why do you switch from walking to running at a specific speed? Why do tall trees rarely blow over in high winds? And why does a spore ejected into air at seventy miles per hour travel only a fraction of an inch? Comparative Biomechanics is the first and only textbook that takes a comprehensive look at the mechanical aspects of life--covering animals and plants, structure and movement, and solids and fluids. An ideal entry point into the ways living creatures interact with their immediate physical world, this revised and updated edition examines how the forms and activities of animals and plants reflect the materials available to nature, considers rules for fluid flow and structural design, and explores how organisms contend with environmental forces.

Drawing on physics and mechanical engineering, Steven Vogel looks at how animals swim and fly, modes of terrestrial locomotion, organism responses to winds and water currents, circulatory and suspension-feeding systems, and the relationship between size and mechanical design. He also investigates links between the properties of biological materials--such as spider silk, jellyfish jelly, and muscle--and their structural and functional roles. Early chapters and appendices introduce relevant physical variables for quantification, and problem sets are provided at the end of each chapter. Comparative Biomechanics is useful for physical scientists and engineers seeking a guide to state-of-the-art biomechanics. For a wider audience, the textbook establishes the basic biological context for applied areas--including ergonomics, orthopedics, mechanical prosthetics, kinesiology, sports medicine, and biomimetics--and provides materials for exhibit designers at science museums.

Problem sets at the ends of chapters Appendices cover basic background information Updated and expanded documentation and materials Revised figures and text Increased coverage of friction, viscoelastic materials, surface tension, diverse modes of locomotion, and biomimetics
There is no part of our bodies that fully rotates—be it a wrist or ankle or arm in a shoulder socket, we are made to twist only so far. And yet there is no more fundamental human invention than the wheel—a rotational mechanism that accomplishes what our physical form cannot. Throughout history, humans have developed technologies powered by human strength, complementing the physical abilities we have while overcoming our weaknesses. Providing a unique history of the wheel and other rotational devices—like cranks, cranes, carts, and capstans—Why the Wheel Is Round examines the contraptions and tricks we have devised in order to more efficiently move—and move through—the physical world.

Steven Vogel combines his engineering expertise with his remarkable curiosity about how things work to explore how wheels and other mechanisms were, until very recently, powered by the push and pull of the muscles and skeletal systems of humans and other animals. Why the Wheel Is Round explores all manner of treadwheels, hand-spikes, gears, and more, as well as how these technologies diversified into such things as hand-held drills and hurdy-gurdies. Surprisingly, a number of these devices can be built out of everyday components and materials, and Vogel’s accessible and expansive book includes instructions and models so that inspired readers can even attempt to make their own muscle-powered technologies, like trebuchets and ballista.

Appealing to anyone fascinated by the history of mechanics and technology as well as to hobbyists with home workshops, Why the Wheel Is Round offers a captivating exploration of our common technological heritage based on the simple concept of rotation. From our leg muscles powering the gears of a bicycle to our hands manipulating a mouse on a roller ball, it will be impossible to overlook the amazing feats of innovation behind our daily devices.
"This is science writing as wonder and as inspiration." —The Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal

From one of the most influential scientists of our time, a dazzling exploration of the hidden laws that govern the life cycle of everything from plants and animals to the cities we live in.

Visionary physicist Geoffrey West is a pioneer in the field of complexity science, the science of emergent systems and networks. The term “complexity” can be misleading, however, because what makes West’s discoveries so beautiful is that he has found an underlying simplicity that unites the seemingly complex and diverse phenomena of living systems, including our bodies, our cities and our businesses.

Fascinated by aging and mortality, West applied the rigor of a physicist to the biological question of why we live as long as we do and no longer. The result was astonishing, and changed science: West found that despite the riotous diversity in mammals, they are all, to a large degree, scaled versions of each other. If you know the size of a mammal, you can use scaling laws to learn everything from how much food it eats per day, what its heart-rate is, how long it will take to mature, its lifespan, and so on. Furthermore, the efficiency of the mammal’s circulatory systems scales up precisely based on weight: if you compare a mouse, a human and an elephant on a logarithmic graph, you find with every doubling of average weight, a species gets 25% more efficient—and lives 25% longer. Fundamentally, he has proven, the issue has to do with the fractal geometry of the networks that supply energy and remove waste from the organism’s body.

West’s work has been game-changing for biologists, but then he made the even bolder move of exploring his work’s applicability. Cities, too, are constellations of networks and laws of scalability relate with eerie precision to them. Recently, West has applied his revolutionary work to the business world. This investigation has led to powerful insights into why some companies thrive while others fail. The implications of these discoveries are far-reaching, and are just beginning to be explored. Scale is a thrilling scientific adventure story about the elemental natural laws that bind us together in simple but profound ways. Through the brilliant mind of Geoffrey West, we can envision how cities, companies and biological life alike are dancing to the same simple, powerful tune.
Most of us think about our circulatory system only when something goes wrong, but the amazing story of how it goes right--"magnificently right," as author Steven Vogel puts it--is equally worthy of our attention. It is physically remarkable, bringing food to (and removing waste from) a hundred trillion cells, coursing through 60,000 miles of arteries and veins (equivalent to over twice around the earth at the equator). And it is also intriguing. For instance, blood leaving the heart flows rapidly through the arteries, then slows down dramatically in the capillaries (to a speed of one mile every fifty days), but in the veins, on its way back to the heart, it speed up again. How? In Vital Circuits, Steven Vogel answers hundreds of such questions, in a fascinating, often witty, and highly original guide to the heart, vessels and blood. Vogel takes us through the realm of biology and into the neighboring fields of physics, fluid mechanics, and chemistry. We relive the discoveries of such scientists as William Harvey and Otto Loewi, and we consider the circulatory systems of such fellow earth-dwellers as octopuses, hummingbirds, sea gulls, alligators, snails, snakes, and giraffes. Vogel is a master at using everyday points of reference to illustrate potentially daunting concepts. Heating systems, kitchen basters, cocktail parties, balloons--all are pressed into service. And we learn not only such practical information as why it's a bad idea to hold your breath when you strain and why you might want to wear support hose on a long airplane flight, but also the answers to such seemingly unrelated issues as why duck breasts (but not chicken breasts) have dark meat and why dust accumulates on the blades of a fan. But the real fascination of Vital Circuits lies neither in its practical advice nor in its trivia. Rather, it is in the detailed picture we construct, piece by piece, of our extraordinary circulatory system. What's more, the author communicates not just information, but the excitement of discovering information. In doing so, he reveals himself to be an eloquent advocate for the cause of science as the most interesting of the humanities. Anyone curious about the workings of the body, whether afflicted with heart trouble or addicted to science watching, will find this book a goldmine of information and oelight.
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