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Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down [Paperback]

J.e. Gordon
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 10 2003
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 or a kangaroo, this book will ease your anxiety and answer your questions. J. E. Gordon strips engineering of its confusing technical terms, communicating its founding principles in accessible, witty prose.

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Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down + Elementary Structures for Architects and Builders (5th Edition) + The Portable Dante
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Product Description

About the Author

J. E. Gordon , a professor at the University of Reading, is renowned for his research in plastics, crystals, and new materials.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
A structure has been defined as 'any assemblage of materials which is intended to sustain loads', and the study of structures is one of the traditional branches of science. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scientific popularisation at its best. July 9 2000
In the wonderful tradition of Sagan, Cousteau and Asimov, Professor Gordon shows us that science and technology need not be abstruse and tedious, but can be made both pleasant and fascinating. Structures, or Why Things Don't Fall Down stands perfectly well on its own, but the best benefits are to be derived when reading it in tandem with its sister publication, The New Science of Strong Materials. In both books, Professor Gordon strikes the difficult balance between the ease of exposition and the exactness of detail that characterises only the very best of scientific popularisations. He combines his technical presentation with a warm and self-deprecating wit that will have you feeling that you are not being lectured to, so much as enjoying an engaging explanation from a friend.
For example, in a typical moment of whimsy, Professor Gordon speculates upon the benefits of attaching army surplus chicken feathers onto motor cars - a suggestion designed to evoke a humourous image, except that his preceding explication on the structural properties of feathers is done so well that it lends the idea a certain fanciful credence. The pages are filled with such moments. Professor Gordon delights in drawing parallels between the unlikeliest of phenomena - how an intelligent reflection on the properties of worms led him to the design of a better anchor bracket, or how his introduction to a circus proprietor's somewhat self-conscious invention ended up improving everything from military aircraft to household doors. Through the liberal use of such anecdotes, he leads us, gently but inexorably, to a fuller understanding of the interconnectedness of the physical world.
While his book deals with abstract ideas, Professor Gordon comes across clearly as a practical man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By J. head
This book could even give Stress Analysis a good name. The author does an exceedingly good job of explaining the property or behavior of a material. He then proceeds to demonstrate the direct relationship between the properties and how the material is utilized and how it affects of the overall design of the structure. The book discusses why construction steel really is the preferred material for most large structures. Comparisons of soft metal chain vs. high tensile strength suspension bridges or bi-plane vs. monoplane design are discussed. I would recommend this for anybody that wants a well rounded basic understanding of why structures are the designed the way they are. The math is at a minimum, the concepts are very well explained and real world examples are used frequently to keep it interesting. The author's career has exposed him to a multitude of design failures and successes. He readily explains them along with his philosophy of design and accident prevention. This is another one of those books that can in a few chapters explain the major goals and problems in the modern field of design and materials science.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
My boss gave me this book when I arrived at my first job, and it changed the way I saw the world. It covers the basics of structural engineering from cathedrals to clothing, and does so with a blend of historical references and dry British humor that makes it delightful to read. Only basic math is used. The emphasis is on the basic principles (tension, compression, shear, etc.)and how they apply to real-world examples, ranging from bridge trusses to bias-cut fabrics and bat wings. I'd recommend this book for anyone who's curious about how things work. My sole complaint is that this edition is a bit bulky and might seem intimidating, but that's because the print is fairly large. I preferred the earlier British Penguin edition which was much more compact.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I first read both Structures and Gordon's other book, The New Science of Strong Materials, in the early '80's. I have read them several times since, and am constantly trying to find them because I keep giving them away to people. When I read Gordon's explanations of the history and present state of the engineering art, I look at things as diverse as cathedrals and dogs' bladders in a new way. I remember my training in the more equation-heavy disciplines, and I can compare my 16 years of experience in engineering to the words in the book and say, "Oh yes, that's just the way it is," or "Oh, so that's why that happened. Too bad I didn't think of it at the time."
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By A Customer
Let me start by saying I did not voluntarily purchase this text. I had to read it cover to cover for my "Solid Mechanics and Design" course.
This book is filled with many interesting aectdotes from the author's experiences. It is written in a casual way, which I like. Most textbooks I had overcomplicate everything! This book covers a broad range of topics without going into any of them too deeply.
The problem is that I found it lacked the detail I needed to actually "use" it. There's no math. This makes it great for the layman, but what layman would be interested in reading about Civil Engineering? It provided decent base knowledge, but when it was test time, I found it completely useless. The author repeatedly suggests out-of the-box thinking, which is good, but doesn't really help. He'll talk about birds and say "aeronautical engineers take note." Thanks a lot.
Buy this if you are passionate about science and engineering or are a middle school or high school student. Don't buy this if you're looking for help in college or your career.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to get good structural intuition
Great introduction to get good structural intuition. Gives historical background and clear explanation on different kind of structures. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sebastien Lalancette
5.0 out of 5 stars have own copy bought for dear friend too
Most interesting book, good test, pictures. If you are interested in history and how things work this book is for you.
Published 9 months ago by Diana Esmits
5.0 out of 5 stars Father gifted it in 80s and I am buying it again
This book was gifted to me by my late father in 1980s when I started my undegraduate studies in Civil Engineering (it may still be shelved in the family library back home). Read more
Published on Dec 20 2008 by Suhail Zubaid AHMAD
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the Best Introduction for the layman ......
I first read this book more than 20 years ago when I was a high school student. Today, I am a practising professional engineer and I still think this is the best introduction to... Read more
Published on April 7 2008 by Michael S. Killeavy
4.0 out of 5 stars nice to read but lacks rigour ...
The book is indeed good for the layman (I would even say very good), but it lacks rigour and this makes it less usable for professional purposes... Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Eccentric
At times I was annoyed by Mr Gordon's style - this is the work of a real old-world engineer. The little anecdotes he scatters through the work where so-and-so told him something,... Read more
Published on May 25 2002 by A. G. Plumb
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book
I bought this book translated into Spanish. (Ediciones Celeste)ISBN 84-8211-190-6.
I'm Civil (Structural) and Industrial engineer. Read more
Published on Feb. 9 2002 by ivan g. andrade
5.0 out of 5 stars Thinking about becoming an Engineer? Read on
While deciding on my major in college I read this book. It provides a good overview of Structures in terms anyone can understand. Read more
Published on Feb. 1 2002 by Cavan
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This book is the only structures book that I have ever read that is fun to read! It makes use of real life exemples insted of mathematical equations. Read more
Published on Nov. 12 2001
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