Summer Reading: It looked Good on Paper

It Looked Good On Paper (Book Cover)It Looked Good on Paper: Bizarre Inventions, Design Disasters, and Engineering Follies

Edited by Bill Fawcett
New York : Harper, c2009

Engineering TA174 .I83 2009

It Looked Good on Paper is a remarkable compendium of wild schemes, mad plans, crazy inventions, and truly glorious disasters. Every phenomenally bad idea seemed like a good idea to someone.  How else can you explain the Ford Edsel or the sword pistol—absolutely absurd creations that should have never made it off the drawing board? It Looked Good on Paper gathers together the most flawed plans, half-baked ideas, and downright ridiculous machines throughout history that some second-rate Einstein decided to foist on an unsuspecting populace with the best and most optimistic intentions. Some failed spectacularly. Others fizzled after great expense. One even crashed on Mars. But every one of them at one time must have looked good on paper, including:

  • The lead water pipes of Rome
  • The Tacoma Narrows Bridge—built to collapse
  • The Hubble telescope—the $2 billion scientific marvel that couldn’t see
  • The Spruce Goose—Howard Hughes’s airborne atrocity: big, expensive, slow, unstable, and made of wood
  • With more than thirty-five chapters full of incredibly insipid inventions, both infamous and obscure, It Looked Good on Paper is a mind-boggling, endlessly entertaining collection of fascinating failures.

Bill Fawcett is the author and editor of more than a dozen books, including You Did What?  It Seemed Like a Good Idea . . . How to Lose a Battle, and You Said What? He lives in Illinois.

Summer Reading You Might Enjoy! Why Don’t Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings?

Why Don’t Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings?Why don't jumbo jets flap their wings (Book Cover)
By David E. Alexander
New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, c2009

Engineering Library TL546.7 .A44 2009

Why don’t jumbo jets flap their wings? offers a fascinating explanation of how nature and human engineers each arrived at powered flight. What emerges is a highly readable account of two very different approaches to solving the same fundamental problems of moving through the air, including lift, thrust, turning, and landing. The book traces the evolutionary process of animal flight-in birds, bats, and insects-over millions of years and compares it to the directed efforts of human beings to create the aircraft over the course of a single century.

From Publishers Weekly:
This book is for everyone who’s ever wondered how something gets into the air, stays there and lands safely. A close look at the aerodynamics of wings introduces the basic concepts of lift, thrust, drag and weight, the basic forces that affect flight. While the principles don’t differ between animals and machines, design and purpose do. Bird and insect wings have evolved to provide lift and maneuverability, ward off predators and attract mates. Manmade flyers, on the other hand—even sailplanes—require a separate means of thrust to create lift. Alexander, who teaches biology at the University of Kansas and studies biomechanics, explains how birds and machines hover; how rotary plane and jet engines work; what keeps airplanes, with their rigid wings, stable in the air; and how various tools help pilots fly blind. Sections on flying predators and aerial combat, as well as human-powered flight, are especially interesting. Extensive references, a glossary and suggested reading should give even novices a good understanding of flight and how it works.

 

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.