Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down

J. E. Gordon  |  Engineering
9.3 / 10
Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down

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 D

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2022-05-30 12:24:02
What this book does very well is demonstrate the scientific process from a practical and engineering perspective. The book is written sort of like a narrative, and the historical descriptions take on a nearly first-person feel to it. It's almost like 'you' can experience the evolution of thought and understanding of structural mechanics.

It's as close to a representation of how science is actually done as I've seen. Very unique.

FYI though, the guy tends to get a bit verbose and it sometimes feels like words were added to make his stream of consciousness writing make sense to others, but not enough words were taken away later.
2022-05-28 23:00:52
This book requires fairly careful attention plus at least an attempt to follow some very simple algebra. But that said, it is well worth the trouble. This book gave me more of a startling uptick in my ability to perceive and "read" the structures around me - from trees leaning this way or that old bending in the wind, to the fascinating structures of bridges and buildings. Really an outstanding, entertaining, super well written book that literally changed my life. Suggestion: without sketch paper and google search to hand I would have had a hard time soaking this one up.
2022-05-26 12:23:39
I wish Gordon was my Strength of Material Professor. His grasp of the subject is only exceeded by his writing skills.

Reminds me of Richard Feynman in his knowledge and his ability to teach a complex topic..

BTW this is on the recommended book list of Elon Musk. That's a nice endorsement.
2022-05-22 11:23:26
I enjoyed the physics explanations, and the history of science parts are excellent: the progression of discoveries, the important physicists who enabled the advancement of materials and engineering etc: all these are great.
2022-05-20 22:23:15
Structures: Or why things don’t fall down

A very interesting book, covering a wide field of topics, from the ground up you might say.

Basic concepts of forces are addressed. Compression, tension, shear and torsion forces, and their occurrence in everything from bridges, ancient coliseums, trees, boats and human biology. This, the author does very well; constantly interweaving the effects of various types of strains and stresses and fractures as they occur in wood construction and metal beams, as well as human skeletons and arteries.

Reasons for, and types of failure are described for wood, concrete, boat sails, steel, femurs and aortas. Advantageous shapes of design for handling wind and accepting impacts are given, and reasons for spoke wheels. Critical and safe limits of fatigue and fracture are described…historical cases are offered, describing why early aero planes crashed and bridges fell down, and why boats capsize.

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