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Super Structures

, 280 pages

74 halftones, 59 line drawings

May 2010



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Usually ships 2-3 business days after receipt of order.

Super Structures

The Science of Bridges, Buildings, Dams, and Other Feats of Engineering

Ever wonder how a graceful and slender bridge can support enormous loads over truly astonishing spans? Why domes and free-standing arches survive earthquakes that flatten the rest of a city?

Physicist Mark Denny looks at the large structures around us—tall buildings, long bridges, and big dams—and explains how they were designed and built and why they sometimes collapse, topple, or burst.

Denny uses clear, accessible language to explain the physics behind such iconic structures as the Parthenon, the Eiffel Tower, the Forth Rail Bridge in Edinburgh, and Hoover Dam. His friendly approach allows readers to appreciate the core principles that keep these engineering marvels upright without having to master complex mathematical equations.

Employing history, humor, and simple physics to consider such topics as when to use screws or nails, what trusses are, why iron beams are often I-shaped, and why medieval cathedrals have buttresses, Denny succeeds once again in making physics fun.

After earning a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Edinburgh University, Mark Denny pursued research at Oxford University from 1981 to 1984, then moved into a career in industry. He is the author of Ingenium: Five Machines That Changed the World; Blip, Ping, and Buzz: Making Sense of Radar and Sonar; Float Your Boat! The Evolution and Science of Sailing; and Froth! The Science of Beer, all of which are published by Johns Hopkins. Denny is now semi-retired and lives on Vancouver Island.

"Extraordinary guide to the hidden secrets of modern man-made miracles... Highly recommended."

"It will appeal to the interested layperson who is curious about how structures work and about the factors influencing their development over several millennia. It would also be useful background reading for students of architecture and building (and even of engineering, if you don’t tell your professor)."

"Denny's new book is perfused with this sense of excitement... It is to be recommended."

"The author's goal in writing this book is 'to explain, with technical accuracy but minimal math, why our large engineering structures... are built the way they are.' Denny, a theoretical physicist and author of numerous works facilitating an understanding of science concepts... does an excellent job with that."

"This would be a good book to add to the school or department library, and anyone who is interested in the design of structures should find it an interesting read."

"Denny has written an accessible volume that should be informative and entertaining to physicists who are not expert in structural engineering."

"Structures stand, soar and collapse based on fundamental physics principles."

"Denny's wry humor is fun to read and made me laugh out loud."

"Denny largely sheds the complexity of mathematical constructs, distilling their most salient features into a more qualitative understanding of radar and sonar systems."

"Indeed, Denny's writing is anything but dry and boring. He adeptly explains complex subject matter and does so with relatively simple language and minimal use of symbolic notation."

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