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Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down

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In a book that Business Insider noted as one of the "14 Books that inspired Elon Musk," J.E. Gordon strips engineering of its confusing technical terms, communicating its founding principles in accessible, witty prose. 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 gall In a book that Business Insider noted as one of the "14 Books that inspired Elon Musk," J.E. Gordon strips engineering of its confusing technical terms, communicating its founding principles in accessible, witty prose. 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, a bias-cut dress, or a kangaroo, this book will ease your anxiety and answer your questions. Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down is an informal explanation of the basic forces that hold together the ordinary and essential things of this world--from buildings and bodies to flying aircraft and eggshells. In a style that combines wit, a masterful command of his subject, and an encyclopedic range of reference, Gordon includes such chapters as "How to Design a Worm" and "The Advantage of Being a Beam," offering humorous insights in human and natural creation. Architects and engineers will appreciate the clear and cogent explanations of the concepts of stress, shear, torsion, fracture, and compression. If you're building a house, a sailboat, or a catapult, here is a handy tool for understanding the mechanics of joinery, floors, ceilings, hulls, masts--or flying buttresses. Without jargon or oversimplification, Structures opens up the marvels of technology to anyone interested in the foundations of our everyday lives.


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In a book that Business Insider noted as one of the "14 Books that inspired Elon Musk," J.E. Gordon strips engineering of its confusing technical terms, communicating its founding principles in accessible, witty prose. 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 gall In a book that Business Insider noted as one of the "14 Books that inspired Elon Musk," J.E. Gordon strips engineering of its confusing technical terms, communicating its founding principles in accessible, witty prose. 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, a bias-cut dress, or a kangaroo, this book will ease your anxiety and answer your questions. Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down is an informal explanation of the basic forces that hold together the ordinary and essential things of this world--from buildings and bodies to flying aircraft and eggshells. In a style that combines wit, a masterful command of his subject, and an encyclopedic range of reference, Gordon includes such chapters as "How to Design a Worm" and "The Advantage of Being a Beam," offering humorous insights in human and natural creation. Architects and engineers will appreciate the clear and cogent explanations of the concepts of stress, shear, torsion, fracture, and compression. If you're building a house, a sailboat, or a catapult, here is a handy tool for understanding the mechanics of joinery, floors, ceilings, hulls, masts--or flying buttresses. Without jargon or oversimplification, Structures opens up the marvels of technology to anyone interested in the foundations of our everyday lives.

30 review for Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mykle

    Nothing has fallen on me since I read this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fraser Kinnear

    What an incredible book! The best layman's introduction to a scientific topic that I've read since Feynman's QED. The author is also hilariously British and doesn't waste an opportunity to rag on the French. Much of what I write below is copied verbatim from the text, but am too lazy to identify what with appropriate quotes. These notes constitute about the first 175 pages, I should get around to documenting what I learned in the back half at some point. basic definitions - Streess = s= load / area What an incredible book! The best layman's introduction to a scientific topic that I've read since Feynman's QED. The author is also hilariously British and doesn't waste an opportunity to rag on the French. Much of what I write below is copied verbatim from the text, but am too lazy to identify what with appropriate quotes. These notes constitute about the first 175 pages, I should get around to documenting what I learned in the back half at some point. basic definitions - Streess = s= load / area = MegaNewtons / meter^2 - Stress measures how hard atoms in a material are being pulled apart or pushed together - Strain = e = increase of length / original length - Strain is how far atams are being pushed or pulled - Strength is the stress needed to break a material - Young's modulous of elasticity ('E') = stress/strain - Young's modulus aka stiffness - Hooke's law says that all solids change their shape - by stretching or contracting - when a mechanical force is applied to it, and it is this change of shape that allows an object to push back - Strength is not the same thing as stiffness (e.g. a biscuit is stiff but weak, steel is stiff ad strong, nylon is flexible (not stiff / low E) and strong, raspbery jelly is flexible (not stiff / low E) and weak - resiliance is the ability to store train energy and deflect elastically under a load without breaking/causing permanent damage - ductile materials are those that, when pulled in tension, have stress-strain curves that depart from Hooke's law, after which the material deforms plastically (think chewing gum - Critical Griffith crack length is the point when a crack goes from being safe and stable to being self-propagating and very dangerous. = 2WE/(pi*s^2) where W=work of fracture in J/m^2, E = Young's modulous in Newtons/m^2, s = average tensile strength in the material near the crack in Newtons/m^2. - work of fracture (aka toughness) is the quantity of energy requried to break a given cross-section of a material - emulsions are drops of one liquid floating within antoehr liquid - elastomers are materials who can extend to great strain, sometimes 800% (e.g., rubber) - Poisson's ratio says that every material has a constant ratio of strain in one direction when a stress is applied creating strain in a perpindicular direction. q=e2/e1 where e1 = strain in the direction of s1 and cracks - material has stress "trajectories" running through it, which get concentrated (jammed up) at cracks or divots - If a material has a stress s on it and develops a crack/notch with length/depth L and radius of r, then the stress at the tip is no longer s but instead is s(1+2sqrt(L/r)), which means a round hole will have stress of 3s but a corner, which has a low r and a large L can be much higher. This is why ships often break in two starting at corners in doors - Cracks are even worse, because the radius of a crack is tiny making stress at the tip of the crack much higher than the stress elsewhere - Sometimes you can concentrate stress by adding material, making a sudden local increase in stiffness (think new patch in old garment or thick plate of armor on the thin side of a warship). Stress trajectories here are diverted justas muchby an area which strains too little as it is by an are which strains too much, like a hole energy - one Joule is roughly the energy with which an apple would hit the floor if it fell from a table anchient warfare - A palintonton or ballista is much more effective than a trebuchet in doing work. trebuchets could only store about 30K joules of potential energy, while ballistas were ~10X that - bows are dangerous to release without an arrow because there is nowhere for that energy to go but back into the bow nature - spiders webs have two different kinds of threads. long radial ones that carry the load of the structure and are 3X more stiff than the circumfrential threads, which do the work of catching bugs. These more resiliant threads are known as tension members fracture energy - Work of fracture is not the same as tensile strength, which is the stress (not the energy) needed to break a solid - most structural solids (glass,pottery, cement,brick,stone) which we use in technology only require 1 Joule per square metre to break all the chemical bonds on any plane or cross section. these are known as brittle solids. - we do not use brittle solids in applications where they are in tension for this reason. They don't have low tensile strengths (i.e. they need a low force to break them) but because they need only a low energy to break them. - tough materials can have the same strength as a brittle material, but they are able to deflect stress much deeper into their material, increasing dramatically the work required to fracture the material. in other words, with tough materials, molecules living deep within the material absorb some of the sstress - The energy needed to grow a crack comes from the release of strain energy in material that is separated by the crack. The release of strain energy tends to be over an area that is two triangles with one side the depth of the crack and the other side the exposed surface of the material. The area of released strain is the square of the depth of the crack, which means if a crack is length L then the strain energy release grows as L^2. Therefore, as a crack length grows from 0, the beginning of its life requires net consumption of energy (more energy put into it than released), but after a while the crack reaches a length where it net releases more energy than it absorbs. This length is called "critical Griffith crack length". - The local stress at a crack's tip can be very high - much higher than the official tensile strength of the material. The structure will still be safe and not break so long as no crack or other opening is longer than the critical Griffith length. - The length of a safe crack depends upon the ratio of the value of the work of fracture to that of the strain energy stored in th material, or inversely proportional to its resilience. - Rubber will store a lot of strain energy but its work of fracture is low so the critical crack length is very short, which explains why baloons pop the way they do, in a brittle matter. - One way to be resilient and tough is to be like cloth or backet work and wooden ships and horse-drawn vehicles. In these things the joints are more or less loose and flexibile and so energy is absorbed in friction - In a really large structure like a ship or a bridge, we want to be able to put up with a crack at least 1-2 meters long with safety. - the failure of a structure may be controlled, not by the strength, but by the brittleness of the material - the toughness of most metals is reduced as the tensile strength increases. You can cheaply double the strength of mild steel by increasing the carbon content, but you would reduce the work of fracture by a factor of ~15. So if you double the working stress of a streucture this way, the critical crack length will be reduced by a factor of 15x2^2=60 (x2^2 is the two triangles on each side fo the crack). This means if the safe crack was originally 1 meter long, it will now measure 1.5cm - But if you have a small object (like a bolt) you are ok with crack lengths that are very small, so we can use high strength metals and high working stresses more safely in small structures than in large ones. The larger the structure the lower the stress wch may have to be accepted in the interests of safety. pressure vessels - the pressure inside a spherical vessel is rp/2t where r= the radius of the vessel, p = pressure, and 2 = the shell wall thickness - for a cylinder, the stress along the shell (i.e., longitudinally) is the same as that in a spherical vessel rp/2t - teh circumferential stress in the shell of a cylinder is rp/t, meaning it is 2x the longitudinal stress, which explains why sausage skins split longitudinally when they are cooked because the skin can't handle the circumfrential stress - this has effect in sailing, where chinese junk sails are rigged so that as wind pressure increasesthe radius of curvature diminishes and the tension force in the canvas remains roughly constant no matter how hard the winds may blow - the only sort of elasticity which is stable under fluid pressures at high strains follow an exponential stress~strain curve (our veins and arteries operat under ~50% strain, and wouldn't work if they were under rubber-like straess-strain curves). This curve means you don't need much stress at first for any strain, but after a while the slope increases dramatically - the heart works in that during the pumping (systolic) part of the cardiac cycle, much of the excess of high -pressure blood is accomodated by the elastic expansion of the aorta and of the larger arteries; this has the effect of smoothing the fluctuations of our blood pressure. - the elasticity of the arteries therefore does the same job as the air-bottle affair which enegineers often attach to mechanical reciprocating pumps - this is why, if artery walls stiff and harden with age, the blood-pressure is likely to rise joints & fastenings - a lapped joint creates stress concentrations at the two ends of the joint, which is why the strength of such joints depends mostly on their width and not the length of overlap between the two parts. This makes simple rivets very effective - for rods screwed into an anchorage, nearly all of the laod is taken out by the first 2 or 3 threads near the surface, making any extra length of rod within the socket ineffective - this is true when two components of the joint have simialr Young's moduli or when the rod/tension bar is less still than the material of its socket/anchorage. But if the rod or bar is substantially stiffer than the material into which one is trying to anchor it, the stress situation is often reversed and the concentration may exist mainly ata the bottom or inner end of the rod. - riveted joints are heavier than welded joints, but they are also easier to inspect, and often act as crack-stoppers. Most importantly, riveted joints can slip a little and so redistribute the load - rivet holes normally are punched then reamed. The reaming at the end makes the hole stronger and with fewer cracks that were made during the punch - in theory a welded joint should be watertight, but seldom is. In practice, rivets are cheaply caulked, but that can't be donee with a welded joint, so instead a liquid sealing compound is injected under pressure into the weld. surface tension - tension in a liquid surface differs from Hookean tension in three aspects: 1. the tension force does not depend on the strain/extension but is constant however far the surface is stretched, 2. unlike a solid, the usrface of a liquid can be extended without breaking, 3. the tension force does not depend on the cross-sectional area but only upon the width of teh surface. The surface tension is just the same in a deep or "thick" liquid as it is in a shallow or "thin" one. - so if two droplets join up to make one droplet of twice the volume, there is a net reduction in the surface area of the liquid and therefore the surface energy. So there is an energy incentive for drops in an emulsion to coalesce and for the system to segregate into to continuous liquids. - if you want the droplets to remain separate and not coalesce, then you have to "stabilize the emulsion" so they repel each other. This can be done with electricity, which is why emulsions are affected by electrolytes like acids and alkalis

  3. 5 out of 5

    Saumitra Thakur

    Overall, I liked but did not love this book. The author's purpose is to introduce the basic principles of structural engineering in a way that leaves the reader with good intuitions about how structures work, an appreciation for how the field has evolved (and, in turn, how we've evolved with it), and optimism for what the future holds. On the basis of fulfilling its purpose, the author does a great job. The author breaks down difficult concepts into understandable chunks. He uses math judiciously Overall, I liked but did not love this book. The author's purpose is to introduce the basic principles of structural engineering in a way that leaves the reader with good intuitions about how structures work, an appreciation for how the field has evolved (and, in turn, how we've evolved with it), and optimism for what the future holds. On the basis of fulfilling its purpose, the author does a great job. The author breaks down difficult concepts into understandable chunks. He uses math judiciously to make principles more relatable. By the end of the book, you can walk around a construction site and have a much better understanding of what's going on. More so, you're going to have a humility for all that you don't know. One of my biggest takeaways, personally, was how little we understand of why structures work and how much of our recent experience with airplanes and bridges has been only after structures failed catastrophically. I detested the author's tone. To the author's credit, he wrote in what certainly seemed to be a sincere tone, so I suppose that I may just detest him. He writes in the manner of a charming, elderly British professor. What makes that more grating than charming to me are: - His obfuscation at times by relying on obscure historic or British references - His prejudices, including rhetorical asides that repeatedly suggest that little boys become engineers and little girls become frivolous targets for little boys to woo and that those who question whether British imperialism had downsides should be summarily dismissed

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    With no real relevant educational or vocational background, I came to this book for the title and inspired chapter headings ("Strain energy and modern fracture mechanics--with a digression on bows, catapults, and kangaroos") and stayed for the captivating asides: "All over the world bridge-building used to be associated with children’s dances...and with human sacrifices which are not just legends. At least one child’s skeleton has been discovered immured in the foundations of a bridge." Along the With no real relevant educational or vocational background, I came to this book for the title and inspired chapter headings ("Strain energy and modern fracture mechanics--with a digression on bows, catapults, and kangaroos") and stayed for the captivating asides: "All over the world bridge-building used to be associated with children’s dances...and with human sacrifices which are not just legends. At least one child’s skeleton has been discovered immured in the foundations of a bridge." Along the way, Gordon's casual and accessible manner of discussing how structures work--which happens to apply to pretty much everything, including the human body and its tiniest parts, e.g. blood vessels (an observation that, to me at least, wasn't already so obvious)--made for unexpectedly compelling and effective reading on a variety of topics that may sound somewhat specialized to those of us without engineering backgrounds. (I never thought I'd think so much about torsional stiffness, for example, or find my life marginally improved by knowing more about it.) But Gordon's prose has a way of making you step away from the book and into your environment with fresh eyes, newly aware that things may or may not fall down all because of a few fundamental facts about tension and compression, stress and strain. It's a preoccupying worldview; I can see why people end up structural engineers. Recommended to anyone who is a structure or interacts with structures (one doesn't necessarily have to live a structured life), and is above say grade 6--there is some math here and there. Mileage may vary for those prone to anxiety; as it turns out, yes, your house *might* collapse without warning, but at least you'll know, should you be out when it happens, that it was almost certainly because the attic floor gave out and not that the roof caved in.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Simon Bostock

    Consistently illuminating - I read this book with the intention of seeing how learning about physical/engineering structures would translate/resonate for Organisational Development. And it does. Gordon doesn't see a 'clear distinction between material and structure', for example - which I think is a really interesting insight. It's fun, there's lots of interestingly powerful new words to learn, and, although it's very engineer-ish, I managed to grok most of it. Consistently illuminating - I read this book with the intention of seeing how learning about physical/engineering structures would translate/resonate for Organisational Development. And it does. Gordon doesn't see a 'clear distinction between material and structure', for example - which I think is a really interesting insight. It's fun, there's lots of interestingly powerful new words to learn, and, although it's very engineer-ish, I managed to grok most of it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Uma

    !!! J.E. Gordon makes everything sooo interesting

  7. 5 out of 5

    Javier M. R.

    This book was so interesting, really really interesting, but... always is a "but" in the unfinished books shelf isn't?, well the beginning was amazing and it maintained the pace -at least to 36% when i drop it- but the thing that bug me was the parallelism that the autor made of how the structures work with the human anatomy. I have instruction in basic mechanics -I am an engineer- and i love all that stuff of stress and strain in structures and objects, but when you start saying that a lot of s This book was so interesting, really really interesting, but... always is a "but" in the unfinished books shelf isn't?, well the beginning was amazing and it maintained the pace -at least to 36% when i drop it- but the thing that bug me was the parallelism that the autor made of how the structures work with the human anatomy. I have instruction in basic mechanics -I am an engineer- and i love all that stuff of stress and strain in structures and objects, but when you start saying that a lot of strain on veins tissue can provoke an Aneurism... well, or excess of vibrations can provoke that your veins go zig zag on your body, and you say that tendons can be cut with a little knife but can sustain greats weight loads, all of this makes you start thinking about thinks that you should not think about. Of course all of this things are true, at least the behavior of this structures knowing their composition is predictable to some degree, the book is honest, but mixing what i know of engineering with tissues and the heart, and the tendons, and the arteries, well i don't want to lose my mind, no thank you.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Very interesting book, I learned a lot. Gordon's prose is readable. He is also opinionated and throws in just the right number of anecdotes. I read this book while also watching the "Great Courses" class, "Understanding the World's Greatest Structures," by Stephen Ressler, and think those lectures covered a lot of the same material but with more compelling examples, buildings and bridges. Very interesting book, I learned a lot. Gordon's prose is readable. He is also opinionated and throws in just the right number of anecdotes. I read this book while also watching the "Great Courses" class, "Understanding the World's Greatest Structures," by Stephen Ressler, and think those lectures covered a lot of the same material but with more compelling examples, buildings and bridges.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    Structures is, in terms of classes at the University of Florida, Mechanics of Materials and its lab, as well as Mechanical Design 1 and 2. Anything that is covered in these classes is covered here with a bit less math. Yet, while the textbooks for these classes may be dry and direct, Gordon is willing to make jokes, go on tangents, and explore his opinions. This makes an engineering book- beyond all expectations- a page turner. More than one of my professors at UF used to be a consultant. When th Structures is, in terms of classes at the University of Florida, Mechanics of Materials and its lab, as well as Mechanical Design 1 and 2. Anything that is covered in these classes is covered here with a bit less math. Yet, while the textbooks for these classes may be dry and direct, Gordon is willing to make jokes, go on tangents, and explore his opinions. This makes an engineering book- beyond all expectations- a page turner. More than one of my professors at UF used to be a consultant. When things blew up or went wrong, it was there job to go to court and point fingers after having studied the shit out of whatever blew up. And these stories were always the best stories. Tension? Compression? Fatigue failure? The best examples are non-examples. "Look on this wreckage, ye mighty, and despair-- please don't do this or our college gets a bad rap." Structures has tons of these examples, and as the book goes from the basic principles of factors of safety and critical crack lengths up to arches, we get more and more of them. The last few chapters are calls to action: Failures in structures are almost always due to lazy designers or lazy manufacturing and these are critical moral failures of Biblical proportions. Parallel to this is failures in aesthetics: an engineer is mostly likely designing something that many people will use. Therefore, it is absolutely critical that what they're designing /is nice/. The Spartan ethic of functionalism is too narrow and close-minded. Structures is a good book for the young engineer or the layman. It gives a -forgive me- structure to one's thoughts about structures. Because it deals with not just buildings, but vehicles, tools, and living things --like us-- it is important for the construction worker, the mechanic and the doctor.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Max Van Meer

    "It is energetically advantageous for a weight to fall to the ground, for strain energy to be released -and so on. Sooner or later the weight will fall to the ground and the strain energy will be released; but it is the business of a structure to delay such events for a season, for a lifetime or for thousands of years. All structures will be broken or destroyed in the end -just as all people will die in the end. It is the purpose of medicine and engineering to postpone these occurrences for a de "It is energetically advantageous for a weight to fall to the ground, for strain energy to be released -and so on. Sooner or later the weight will fall to the ground and the strain energy will be released; but it is the business of a structure to delay such events for a season, for a lifetime or for thousands of years. All structures will be broken or destroyed in the end -just as all people will die in the end. It is the purpose of medicine and engineering to postpone these occurrences for a decent interval." It's a nice read if you're interested in getting a basic grasp on mechanics. With a background in mechanical engineering, I did enjoy the historical anecdotes and the occasional practical note. However, the author spends so much time elaborating on basic concepts like tension, stress and strain that I'm not sure that I'd recommend it to anyone who has followed at least a basic course in mechanics. His switching between serious explanations and silly jokes doesn't feel well-balanced either - I, for one, am not interested in the Poisson's ratio of the author's tummy. Moreover, for a book about structures, this book is structured very poorly. There's no conclusion and each section of every chapter is a completely different subject without clear coherence or story. If you have zero prior knowledge of mechanics, his detailed explanations, mixed with humour and history, might be just the right accessible starting point. To anyone else, I would not recommend it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andreas

    As an aspiring engineer, this book reaffirmed why I want to be an engineer. Every chapter was delightfully written and logically structured, with lots of short examples from history or thought experiments (with accompanying images). The book incorporated a fair bit of math, but it was simple to understand. If you intend to use the principles of this book in your own life, I suggest taking notes in a separate notebook. Perhaps my favorite chapter was the last of the book (Chapter 15), in which J. E. As an aspiring engineer, this book reaffirmed why I want to be an engineer. Every chapter was delightfully written and logically structured, with lots of short examples from history or thought experiments (with accompanying images). The book incorporated a fair bit of math, but it was simple to understand. If you intend to use the principles of this book in your own life, I suggest taking notes in a separate notebook. Perhaps my favorite chapter was the last of the book (Chapter 15), in which J. E. Gordon discusses the relationship between beauty and functionality in structures, and how beauty has declined in the design process of recent years. This chapter deeply resonated with me, although I can't say exactly why, and prompted some thought-provoking conversations with other members of my household. Overall, I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the rich history and design process of the structures of our daily lives. (P. S. It makes a great gift to the middle or high schooler in your life considering a career in engineering!)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    Nicely explained stress/strain/torsion relationships to strengths of materials for architectural needs... whether human infrastructure or biological systems. Irreverent and focused on accidents and what for most of human history has been pragmatic guesses and extrapolations rather than maths, I enjoyed it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Santosh Vadlamani

    The structures gets stretched at parts, but still a really good read if interested in strength of materials and stuff.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mohamed Almahdi

    This book explains the engineering principles of mechanical structures to the public in an interesting approach that gives examples and case studies that are directly related to the human species experience in history and present. Although, the intent of such popular-engineering book is to simplify the engineering concept found in the field of mechanics of materials to the public, the author does not present the topic in a shallow manner. Besides the popular-engineering content that reflects the This book explains the engineering principles of mechanical structures to the public in an interesting approach that gives examples and case studies that are directly related to the human species experience in history and present. Although, the intent of such popular-engineering book is to simplify the engineering concept found in the field of mechanics of materials to the public, the author does not present the topic in a shallow manner. Besides the popular-engineering content that reflects the high exposure of the author to history, biology, mythology and literature ­­— the book is continuously injected with engineering mathematical equations with curves that show the stress/strain distribution or behavior with respect to another parameters. I believe that individuals who belong to engineering disciplines will find the book very interesting and probably entertaining. I would indeed recommend it to the highly devoted students or practitioners in the field of civil and mechanical engineering.

  15. 4 out of 5

    EG Gilbert

    Full of fundamentals and excellent diagrams illustrating basic principles of elasticity, tension, compression, shear, and torsion. Examples go back further than ancient Greece and work their way to the 20th century. If you can get past the condescending tone and the anachronistic word choices of a 1978 professor assuming all his readers are male, you can learn a great deal. Language example from page 270 describing overly stiff sports car suspension "As a result, of course, the ride became almost Full of fundamentals and excellent diagrams illustrating basic principles of elasticity, tension, compression, shear, and torsion. Examples go back further than ancient Greece and work their way to the 20th century. If you can get past the condescending tone and the anachronistic word choices of a 1978 professor assuming all his readers are male, you can learn a great deal. Language example from page 270 describing overly stiff sports car suspension "As a result, of course, the ride became almost unbearably rough and jerky. Like the noisy exhaust, this kind of thing was no doubt impressive to the girl passenger, but it did not really do very much to keep the car on the road."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Denis Romanovsky

    This is a really great book on structures. One who has almost zero knowledge of the topic (like me) may easily deep dive into this book and understand almost everything. But it will take time... The are some very interesting concepts from the author to remember and reuse in any other aspect of live and work. I would recommend this book to people who wants to widen their outlook, to have a deeper understanding of things and to start learning structures.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    A really interesting look at how engineers look at structures and materials, how the properties of different building materials influence the design, the practical considerations of various architectural styles, why things break and fall down. Author is an old British chap, writing in the 70s, who apparently really likes ships and greek mythology.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Namuel

    Read this on recommendation of Elon Musk Circumferential stress is twice that of longitudinal stress so that's why the sausage bursts along the length of the sausage it gets dry about 3/5 of the way through and then he starts telling stories. it's a casual textbook. learn a couple things. i wonder what will stick Read this on recommendation of Elon Musk Circumferential stress is twice that of longitudinal stress so that's why the sausage bursts along the length of the sausage it gets dry about 3/5 of the way through and then he starts telling stories. it's a casual textbook. learn a couple things. i wonder what will stick

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    Physics from a different point of view. Interesting, although the social commentary in this day and age made me cringe.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Reddle

    A good book that aptly describe "Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down". It explains many structures: Stone Masonry, Suspension Bridges, Arches; Wood, steel, Stone as support structures; Tension, Compression of Materials; Lattices, Fracture Mechanics and many more. Through simple observation I'm sure people understand these concepts intuitively- Take fracture mechanics for example: You have one solid block of material like a wall- it requires a large amount of concentrated force to cause a s A good book that aptly describe "Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down". It explains many structures: Stone Masonry, Suspension Bridges, Arches; Wood, steel, Stone as support structures; Tension, Compression of Materials; Lattices, Fracture Mechanics and many more. Through simple observation I'm sure people understand these concepts intuitively- Take fracture mechanics for example: You have one solid block of material like a wall- it requires a large amount of concentrated force to cause a small crack/fracture in that wall. However, once the initial crack is in place the material around the crack is subject to astronomically more tensile strain (in some cases 10,000 times the initial tension). This makes the next possibility of a crack more likely to occur in a domino effect. It also explains how stone walls collapse through the conversion of compression from stack stones to tension, which occurs on the sides of a brick. If you've ever seen old stone architecture you can see that the corners of stone appear shaved, this principle explains why this is so. It also explains why bodies can diffuse energy as soft tissue can rebound shape and dissipate energy through kinetic links while brittle materials like stone or bricks smash with a modest amount of force. The last chapter tells us a few things about the energy consumption of materials like Steel: Steel was sustained to be developed due to an excess of high concentrated energy sources like Coal and Oil. Our obsession with steel isn't sustainable when we consider the energy needed to produce this so we should try to move to other materials that are net-free energy: Timber has very interesting structural properties like being lightweight, similar compression to Concrete, Elasticity and a high tensile Strength. There's a fair amount of formulas in this book so it's definitely useful for a structural engineer, slightly less so for a non-practitioner but the conception of ideas explained are very useful for mapping the world around you.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    A pithy, often humorous, and informative introduction to structural engineering concepts. Gordon is a rather "old school" engineer, and British to boot, and I enjoyed his tone being pretty much exactly what you would expect from that pedigree. The book ranks near to Colinvaux's "Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare" (not only in the relentlessly precise title) in how much I learned per chapter, although the other book is a bit leaner, in a good way. The other commonality with Colinvaux's book is that A pithy, often humorous, and informative introduction to structural engineering concepts. Gordon is a rather "old school" engineer, and British to boot, and I enjoyed his tone being pretty much exactly what you would expect from that pedigree. The book ranks near to Colinvaux's "Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare" (not only in the relentlessly precise title) in how much I learned per chapter, although the other book is a bit leaner, in a good way. The other commonality with Colinvaux's book is that they both stress the qualitative unity of many different concepts: why a house and a sailboat and a human body are structurally similar, for example, even though the construction is very different. The book falls flat in two places that, ironically, I usually appreciate. I sympathize with Gordon's opinion that engineers and architects have, increasingly since the Industrial Reviews, abandoned aesthetics as a meaningful concern, and that this is Bad for common life. See also Jane Jacobs' similar, but less elitist, observations about the design of city neighborhoods. But Gordon is (by his own admission!) out of his depth here, and rarely achieves anything beyond "old man yelling at cloud" rhetoric. More development would have been welcome. The other place, even more ironically, is in the mathematical content, where he demonstrates certain crucial physical laws. I don't think it was the best presentation of the material, and the qualitative discussions were certainly informative enough. Tables and general graphs were fine; I didn't need the (often quite tedious to look at) algebra. Overall, the book delivers on the title's promise, and I think it's a useful guide to engineering concepts for the "general reader."

  22. 4 out of 5

    Richard Thompson

    I have long wished to have a better understanding of basic principles of engineering, but there are precious few books available for the aspiring amateur engineer. I wish I had found this book a while ago because it definitely scratched my itch to play at engineering. I love the idea of being able to look at a bridge, building or other structure and have a better sense of what holds it up and makes it stable, looking for lines of tension and compression and thinking about how the design represen I have long wished to have a better understanding of basic principles of engineering, but there are precious few books available for the aspiring amateur engineer. I wish I had found this book a while ago because it definitely scratched my itch to play at engineering. I love the idea of being able to look at a bridge, building or other structure and have a better sense of what holds it up and makes it stable, looking for lines of tension and compression and thinking about how the design represents solutions to technical problems. As I go through the world I enjoy posing myself practical mathematical problems about things that I observe and trying to work out rough solutions in my head. Now with the help this book, I have a whole new range of things to think about. The concepts of stress, strain, deflection, stiffness, shear and torsion which are discussed here can all be expressed in simple mathematical formulas that require nothing more than basic algebra to understand, but of course the trick in applying these formulas in the real world is to use them to build something that is safe, efficient and functional, which cannot be done with formulas and theory alone, and in this regard the book helps to explain the engineering mindset for producing functional and safe results. The tone of the book is very British. It is slightly dry, but clear and with a touch of humor. I felt that the tone fit the subject matter hand in glove and this added to the pleasure of the reading.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mjhancock

    I've regularly taught a technical communication course for engineers, which can be challenging when your degree is in English rather than engineering. So every time I teach the course, I try to do a bit of engineering-related reading on the side. This time around, it was Structures. I feel like I learned a lot from it, but the mathematics was frequently if not over my head then in one ear and out the other; I understood it in the moment, but it'd take repeat readings to be able to apply what I l I've regularly taught a technical communication course for engineers, which can be challenging when your degree is in English rather than engineering. So every time I teach the course, I try to do a bit of engineering-related reading on the side. This time around, it was Structures. I feel like I learned a lot from it, but the mathematics was frequently if not over my head then in one ear and out the other; I understood it in the moment, but it'd take repeat readings to be able to apply what I learned beyond that. Still, it has some interesting anecdotes, and Gordon's asides are worth the price of admission. (If he has a memoir out there, it's now on my to read list.) The book is basically a general introduction to the major structures and concepts of engineering, as it stood when the book was published. I really liked Gordon's invocation of natural structures, the way biology meets with the challenges that face human-related engineering in areas such of stress and strain, or joints. I also liked that the book finished on a more philosophical consideration, with an admission that engineers were neglecting aesthetics. (He reminds me a little of Donald Norman in that regard, as well as in general writing style.) It wasn't an easy book, or a quick one, and I'll have to reread it at least once if anything is going to stick. But it was enjoyable, despite being well out of my usual reading zone.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Felix

    It's a long book full of math and explanations but an eye opener on buildings and structures and what keeps them up from falling down. After reading this book I think I will never look at any man made structure with the same eyes as before. The book has exposed me to concepts such as strain, loads, pressure, cracks, materials etc. and it is enlightening for a non-engineering person such as myself. My education has been in business, economics and psychology. In college I had the usual pre-requisi It's a long book full of math and explanations but an eye opener on buildings and structures and what keeps them up from falling down. After reading this book I think I will never look at any man made structure with the same eyes as before. The book has exposed me to concepts such as strain, loads, pressure, cracks, materials etc. and it is enlightening for a non-engineering person such as myself. My education has been in business, economics and psychology. In college I had the usual pre-requisite education into math and calculus for my major but never really got into it. This book has brought back those college memories and has inspired me to look at my old college math books again :-) You don't need to be a math or engineering major to read and understand the book. The author has a nice rhythm to his writing and explains the concepts of structures and why they don't fall down in a very easy and concise manner. One thing I learned from this book is that arches are the most solid structures and that is why you see them from medieval constructions still standing up and why modern bridges still use them for design and construction. The book is long so it took me a while to finish it, but it is worth spending the time to read it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kobe Malagueno

    Informative read, especially if you are studying civil engineering. He explains topics that are not usually thought of in design such as strain energy and material properties opposed to just tensile strength of a material. This book did well on connecting different concepts together including fracture, shear failure and compressive members. Some underlying things that we very well explained was the concepts of arches, suspension bridges and how column usually don't fail in crushing (ex: masonry Informative read, especially if you are studying civil engineering. He explains topics that are not usually thought of in design such as strain energy and material properties opposed to just tensile strength of a material. This book did well on connecting different concepts together including fracture, shear failure and compressive members. Some underlying things that we very well explained was the concepts of arches, suspension bridges and how column usually don't fail in crushing (ex: masonry in arches). One of my favourite ties he brought up was how structures in living beings such as humans and plants function. For example I didn't know that our tendons are integral parts of how humans resist load and are about 800 times stronger than muscles in tension. It was very interesting to think of structural engineering in terms of nature and humans since it is usually thought of in just beams, columns and slabs. In engineering school, we are usually taught concepts in terms of equations but this book achieves a more pragmatic vision by explaining the function of all the integral parts of building assembly.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Field

    Professor Gordon provides a glimpse of how a truly humane engineer looks at the world, identifying the intellectual achievements that have lead us to better design of structures, along with the sacrifices of aesthetic experience that have left us with a drab, uglier world. One that I guess nevertheless has great hope of becoming more interesting when future students look to Nature, to tensile structures over compression when possible, to new materials that combine flexibility with stiffness. Esp Professor Gordon provides a glimpse of how a truly humane engineer looks at the world, identifying the intellectual achievements that have lead us to better design of structures, along with the sacrifices of aesthetic experience that have left us with a drab, uglier world. One that I guess nevertheless has great hope of becoming more interesting when future students look to Nature, to tensile structures over compression when possible, to new materials that combine flexibility with stiffness. Especially moving passages describe the regrettable social conflict between intuitive and theoretical approaches to stress and tension, and the need in our time to craft an outlook analogous to Nature's careful budgeting of "metabolic investment." I may or may not teach this text to young innovators some day; I certainly look forward to the chance.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bryce

    Sometimes I feel strange about giving a book a very high or very low rating when that evaluation seems very particular to me and my circumstances. As a computer engineer, I only took a fairly basic mechanics course. I'm sure Young's modulus was mentioned at some point, but I probably forgot it all after I didn't need it anymore. I think this book does a great job of presenting difficult structural properties in an intuitive way where possible, and in simple analytical models where necessary. The Sometimes I feel strange about giving a book a very high or very low rating when that evaluation seems very particular to me and my circumstances. As a computer engineer, I only took a fairly basic mechanics course. I'm sure Young's modulus was mentioned at some point, but I probably forgot it all after I didn't need it anymore. I think this book does a great job of presenting difficult structural properties in an intuitive way where possible, and in simple analytical models where necessary. The author explores many topics which are unconventional for an introductory mechanics course. I'm still not sure where I stand on the aesthetics of skeuomorphism, but it's definitely worth talking about

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeroen Delcour

    A very nice introduction to material science that is a joy to read. It finds a nice balance between keeping it light for the casual reader but not shying away from the underlying math. In fact, you can get a perfectly good intuition for the subject from this book even if you ignored the math altogether; all the major points are illustrated very well by examples and illustrations. But the math is there for those who find it helps. The only parts I did not enjoy were the last two chapters, in which A very nice introduction to material science that is a joy to read. It finds a nice balance between keeping it light for the casual reader but not shying away from the underlying math. In fact, you can get a perfectly good intuition for the subject from this book even if you ignored the math altogether; all the major points are illustrated very well by examples and illustrations. But the math is there for those who find it helps. The only parts I did not enjoy were the last two chapters, in which he first devolves into his own philosophy of who should be blamed for structural failures and then preaches his personal views of aesthetics. Both these chapters involve theology and the word 'sin' to a surprising degree.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Meyer

    Structures is filled to the brim with excellent summaries of structural engineering, architectural concepts, and the history of human construction. For me - someone without an engineering background - the book was difficult to follow at times. Gordon often refers to specific mechanisms or parts of a machine, and I lacked the familiarity to properly understand the reference. I did enjoy Gordon's explanations of the history of structures. He details some of the construction of historical churches Structures is filled to the brim with excellent summaries of structural engineering, architectural concepts, and the history of human construction. For me - someone without an engineering background - the book was difficult to follow at times. Gordon often refers to specific mechanisms or parts of a machine, and I lacked the familiarity to properly understand the reference. I did enjoy Gordon's explanations of the history of structures. He details some of the construction of historical churches and cathedrals, which was fascinating. However, I required a lot of supplemental internet searching in specific sections. If a new version of the book is released, I think it would be helpful to incorporate more visual references.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Having almost finished training as a physicist, it was a great pleasure to read this conceptual book on structures - a topic which has been missing in my education except for some basic mechanics in the first year. Hence, while the mathematics in the book have been relatively easy to grasp, the concepts of material science and the historical facts have been of great interest to me. For the first time ever, I've stopped to think about the inner workings of buildings, ships and aircraft. It gives Having almost finished training as a physicist, it was a great pleasure to read this conceptual book on structures - a topic which has been missing in my education except for some basic mechanics in the first year. Hence, while the mathematics in the book have been relatively easy to grasp, the concepts of material science and the historical facts have been of great interest to me. For the first time ever, I've stopped to think about the inner workings of buildings, ships and aircraft. It gives me great satisfaction to know some basic principles about these quintessential structures and how they came into being. It's definitely a topic I will further investigate.

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