Cover: Engineering Animals: How Life Works, from Harvard University PressCover: Engineering Animals in HARDCOVER

Engineering Animals

How Life Works

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Product Details


$40.00 • £32.95 • €36.00

ISBN 9780674048546

Publication Date: 05/16/2011


400 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

100 line illus., 18 halftones

Belknap Press


From soaring albatrosses to croaking bullfrogs, different creatures exploit various aspects of engineering to help them fly, hunt, or communicate. In a clear and well-illustrated account, former aerospace engineers Mark Denny and Alan McFadzean describe the principles of physics that underlie animals’ sense of smell, their use of sonar, and how they flock, signal to each other, and consume energy.Nature

Both physiology primer and engineering textbook, Engineering Animals covers the basics of how physics constrains animal structure and function, all the while marveling at nature’s exquisite and often surprising solutions… Engineering Animals is a celebration of nature’s ingenuity… This is an engaging journey through animal adaptation for engineers and non-engineers alike.—Cian O’Luanaigh, New Scientist

A remarkable book… Written in a light and engaging style, but with plenty of references and footnotes, Engineering Animals is perfect for physicists who, like your reviewer, abandoned formal studies in biology at an early age and have always wondered what they missed.Physics World

Mark Denny and Alan McFadzean’s Engineering Animals: How Life Works provides a generally engaging engineer’s perspective on how animals are built and how they function… The authors do a nice job of making how animals work an enticing subject.—Andrew A. Biewener, Science

This wonderful book is a joy to read and will be of interest to both engineers and biologists… [Denny and McFadzean] have built upon their training in both engineering and physics to produce a superbly written work; the explanations of engineering principles at the heart of animal design are entertaining, intuitive, insightful, and concise.—M.J. O’Donnell, Choice

Incorporating their knowledge of systems engineering into the study of how animals navigate their environment, authors Denny, a retired aerospace engineer who specialized in radar and sonar system, and McFadzean, an oil and gas consultant, have written a fascinating study sure to delight naturalists, hunters, and communications specialists. The two apply their technical expertise to a range of problems taken from the animal kingdom: how animals target their prey, the population dynamics underlying predator-prey relationships, how bird migratory patterns depend upon sense perception, global solar energy flows, and more. Hunters, science buffs, and techies alike will especially be fascinated by discussions of target acquisition and tracking. The authors provide a wide overview combined with convincing details, while emphasizing the wide gap between our ability to model the behavior of living beings and create robotic devices and the power and precision of nature. After reading this book a walk through the woods will never be the same.Publishers Weekly

Denny and McFadzean, both having distinguished careers in bioengineering and biomechanics, draw deeply from their experience to explore engineering principles at work in functioning and design of living things. The book is endlessly fascinating, addressing a diversity of topics, from the thermodynamics of living processes to the principles of communications.—J. Scott Turner, author of The Tinkerer’s Accomplice

Yes, animals are engineered—by that designer of long experience, natural selection. Viewing them as products of an exquisitely sophisticated technology, as Denny and McFadzean do here, cannot fail to enrich one’s appreciation of the living reality of which we’re parts. At the same time, the viewpoint provides a fine mirror in which to appreciate our own, widely divergent, human technology.—Steven Vogel, author of Glimpses of Creatures in Their Mechanical Worlds

Awards & Accolades

  • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2012
  • A Physics World Book of the Year, 2011
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In awarding Bruno Latour the 2021 Kyoto Prize for Arts and Philosophy, the Inamori Foundation said he has “revolutionized the conventional view of science” and “his philosophy re-examines ‘modernity’ based on the dualism of nature and society.” Below is an excerpt from An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns. For more than twenty years, scientific and technological controversies have proliferated in number and scope, eventually reaching the climate itself. Since geologists are beginning to use the term “Anthropocene” to designate the era of Earth’s history that follows the Holocene