Skip to main content

101 Things I Learned in Engineering School – John Kuprenas & Matthew Frederick ***

This is a classic example of one of those books that you are much more likely to buy for someone as a present than to know exactly what to do with when you get it. It consists of 101 small two page spreads with an illustration on one page and a short burst of text on the other. These are words of wisdom for engineers, or for ordinary folk who want to learn the engineering equivalent of the force.
Some of the entries are a little hokey, and sound more like a line from a self-help manual, (‘The heart of engineering isn’t calculation; it’s problem solving.’) but many are genuinely useful little engineering tips or thoughts that may have a broader application. Some give a little historical background, others showing, for instance, why roundabouts are better than conventional four-way intersections (because civil engineering is engineering too – in fact, according to another entry, the granddaddy of them all). You’ll find out why aircraft parts aren’t designed for perfect reliability (gulp) and how to stop a crack. What’s not to love?
The hesitation in that first paragraph really comes from the fact that I am an old fashioned, sit down and read a book end to end kind of person. Books like this work better as dip-in titles. Perhaps to keep in the smallest room in the house. A niche market, admittedly, but in this case a beautifully engineered one.
Hardback:  
In case any engineers, and especially civil engineers, get a bit full of themselves after reading this book (or even this review) I leave you with this genuine excerpt from Yellow Pages. 
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Four Way Interview - Tom Cabot

Tom Cabot is a London-based book editor and designer with a background in experimental psychology, natural science and graphic design. He founded the London-based packaging company, Ketchup, and has produced and illustrated many books for the British Film Institute, Penguin and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Tom has held a lifelong passion to explain science graphically and inclusively ... ever since being blown away by Ray and Charles Eames’ Powers of Ten at an early age. His first book is Eureka, an infographic guide to science.

Why infographics?
For me infographics provided a way to present heavy-lifting science in an alluring and playful, but ultimately illuminating, way. And I love visualising data and making it as attractive as the ideas are.  The novelty of the presentation hopefully gets the reader to look afresh. I love the idea of luring in readers who might normally be put off by drier, more monotone science – people who left science behind at 16. I wanted the boo…

Einstein's Greatest Mistake - David Bodanis ****

Books on Einstein and his work are not exactly thin on the ground. There's even been more than one book before with a title centring on Einstein's mistake or mistakes. So to make a new title worthwhile it has do something different - and David Bodanis certainly achieves this with Einstein's Greatest Mistake. If I'm honest, the book isn't the greatest on the science or the history - but what it does superbly is tell a story. The question we have to answer is why that justifies considering this to be a good book.
I would compare Einstein's Greatest Mistake with the movie Lincoln -  it is, in effect, a biopic in book form with all the glory and flaws that can bring. Compared with a good biography, a biopic will distort the truth and emphasise parts of the story that aren't significant because they make for a good screen scene. But I would much rather someone watched the movie than never found out anything about Lincoln - and similarly I'd much rather someon…

A Tale of Seven Scientists - Eric Scerri ***

Scientists sometimes tell us we're in a post-philosophy world. For example, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in The Grand Design bluntly say that that philosophy is 'dead' - no longer required, as science can do its job far better. However, other scientists recognise the benefits of philosophy, particularly when it is applied to their own discipline. One such is Eric Scerri, probably the world's greatest expert on the periodic table, who in this challenging book sets out to modify the philosophical models of scientific progress.

I ought to say straight away that A Tale of Seven Scientists sits somewhere on the cusp between popular science and a heavy duty academic title. For reasons that will become clear, I could only give it three stars if rating it as popular science, but it deserves more if we don't worry too much about it being widely accessible.

One minor problem with accessibility is that I've never read a book that took so long to get started. First t…