Cats’ Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People

Cats’ Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People by Steven Vogel

Synopsis: Nature and humans build their devices with the same earthly materials and use them in the same air and water, pulled by the same gravity. Why, then, do their designs diverge so sharply? Humans, for instance, love right angles, while nature’s angles are rarely right and usually rounded. Our technology goes around on wheels―and on rotating pulleys, gears, shafts, and cams―yet in nature only the tiny propellers of bacteria spin as true wheels. Our hinges turn because hard parts slide around each other, whereas nature’s hinges (a rabbit’s ear, for example) more often swing by bending flexible materials. In this marvelously surprising, witty book, Steven Vogel compares these two mechanical worlds, introduces the reader to his field of biomechanics, and explains how the nexus of physical law, size, and convenience of construction determine the designs of both people and nature.

Published: January 2000 | ISBN: 978-0393319903

Mini-bio: Steven Vogel was an American biomechanics researcher, the James B. Duke professor in the Department of Biology at Duke University.

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Paperback Edition: Cats’ Paws and Catapults: Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People