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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.

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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


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