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Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down

Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down

Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down
By J. E. Gordon

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(88 customer reviews)

Book Description

For anyone who has ever wondered why suspension bridges don't collapse under eight lanes of traffic, how dams hold back-or give way under-thousands of gallons of water, or what principles guide the design of a skyscraper or a kangaroo, this book will ease your anxiety and answer your questions. J. E. Gordon strips engineering of its confusing technical terms, communicating its founding principles in accessible, witty prose.

Book Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #23829 in eBooks
  • Published on: 2009-04-28
  • Released on: 2009-04-28
  • Format: Kindle eBook

Editorial Reviews

"It is really, really good if you want a primer on structural design."―Elon Musk

"Rich and readable...personal, witty, and ironic."―Scientific American

"Here we have the conversation in unbuttoned mood of a learned engineer with wide sympathies about his art, its history, its range, and the silly things which happen. It reads easily and has immense charm."―Architect's Journal

About the Author
James Edward Gordon was born in 1913. He took a degree in naval architecture at Glasgow University and worked in wood and steel shipyards, intending to design sailing ships. On the outbreak of the Second World War he moved to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, where he worked on wooden aircraft, plastics and unorthodox materials of all kinds. He designed the sailing rescue dinghies carried at one time by most bomber aircraft. He later became head of the plastic structures sections at Farnborough and developed a method of construction in reinforced plastics which is now used for a number of purpose in aircraft and rockets. For several frustrating years he worked in industry on the strength of glass and the growth of strong 'whisker' crystals. In 1962 he returned to government service as superintendent of an experimental branch at Waltham Abbey concerned with research and development of entirely new structural materials, most of which were based on 'whiskers'. He was Industrial Fellow Commoner at Churchill College, Cambridge, and became Professor of Materials Technology at the University of Reading, where he was later Professor Emeritus. He was awarded the British Silver Medal of the Royal Aeronautical Society for work on aircraft plastics and also the Griffith Medal of the Materials Science Club for contributions to material science. His book, Structures or Why Things Don't Fall Down, is also published in Penguin. Professor Gordon died in 1998. In its obituary The Times wrote of him that he was 'one of the founders of materials science' and that he wrote 'two books of outstanding literary quality ... at once entertaining and informative, providing absorbing interest for both expert and student'.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful.
5Book Review Number One: year 2017
By Michael J. etc.,etc...
Structures: Or why things don’t fall down

A very interesting book, covering a wide field of topics, from the ground up you might say.

Basic concepts of forces are addressed. Compression, tension, shear and torsion forces, and their occurrence in everything from bridges, ancient coliseums, trees, boats and human biology. This, the author does very well; constantly interweaving the effects of various types of strains and stresses and fractures as they occur in wood construction and metal beams, as well as human skeletons and arteries.

Reasons for, and types of failure are described for wood, concrete, boat sails, steel, femurs and aortas. Advantageous shapes of design for handling wind and accepting impacts are given, and reasons for spoke wheels. Critical and safe limits of fatigue and fracture are described…historical cases are offered, describing why early aero planes crashed and bridges fell down, and why boats capsize.

Cautions are pointed out. Over design of repair: The repair must work in harmony with the repaired material, and not be so unyielding that it works against it. So many invisible forces of tension and compression are at play, and violation of acceptable limits must be watched for when they manifest in fractures.

Different approaches to bridge trusses are explained, not so much mathematically, but in concepts of load bearing and the transference of force throughout the truss. By way of example, Bowstring bridges seem quite clever in design, where the internal force of the arch pulls the roadway below it taught so that the whole thing is held in equilibrium like a bow and arrow on a giant scale.

The all important “thrust line” is a constant theme from chapter to chapter. Now I know why those old cathedrals have so many spires and spooky statues way up there, and it’s not for warding off evil spirits, it’s because they’re heavy.

There are photographs, all clumped together in the middle of the book. Black and white, kind of blurry, but still a helpful aid. Very nice drawings, not blurry, and graphs are abundant in all chapters to help visualize the topics being discussed.

These and many more topics and application fill this book, none of it came across as boring or dry.

Beyond the final chapter, a few concepts are given a light mathematical treatment. Moments in I-beams, deflections in cantilevers and so forth.
The pages are made of sturdy heavy paper, the printing is nice size and clear for those who require reading glasses, with ample space around the print for making marginal notes.

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful.
5Not reading this book is a sin for every educated man.
By Amazon Customer
J.E.Gordon has taken a remarkable lifetime worth of experiences, the history of aviation, industrialization, railways, shipbuilding and classical culture and put them all into a single, entertaining and tantalizing package. After reading this volume you will have a better understanding of structures, history and society. It is thus no surprise that after four decades it is still a compulsory reading in all major engineering courses.
Yet he goes beyond the science and history: he gives a human dimension to the machines and structures that uphold our society. Through this lens the way we look at society and its interaction with its inventions is exposed in all its beauty and ugliness.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful.
5Great Englishman wit!
By Sarah C. Harlan
Written by an Englishman with dry wit, this is a textbook that lay persons such as I can read smoothly and enjoyably. There are 24 photo plates in the middle, and stick drawings on almost every page. Mathematical formulas abound, but if you don't like math, you can skip the formulas and continue reading with pleasure.

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