Book Search:  


Google full text of our books:


Life in Moving Fluids:
The Physical Biology of Flow (Second edition)
Steven Vogel

Book Description | Reviews | Table of Contents

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Published by Princeton University Press and copyrighted, © 1994, by Princeton University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher, except for reading and browsing via the World Wide Web. Users are not permitted to mount this file on any network servers. Follow links for Class Use and other Permissions. For more information, send e-mail to

Preface to the New Edition

About a dozen years ago, calling up a degree of hubris that I now find quite inexplicable, I wrote a book about the interface between biology and fluid dynamics. I had never deliberately written a book, and I had never taken a proper course in fluids. But I had learned through teaching--both something about the subject and something about the dearth of material that might provide a useful avenue of approach for biologist and engineer. Each seemed dazzled and dismayed by the complexity of the other's domain. The book happened in a hurry, in a kind of race against the impending end of a sabbatical semester, and in a kind of mad fit of passion driven by the simple realization (and astonishment) that it was actually happening.

The reception of _Life in Moving Fluids_ turned out to surpass my most self-indulgent fantasies--it reached the people I had hoped to reach, from ecologists and marine biologists to physical and applied scientists of various persuasions, and it seems to have played a catalytic or instigational role in quite a few instances. Quite clearly the book has been the most important thing of a professional sort that I've ever done; certainly that's true if measured by the frequency with which the first punning sentence of its preface is flung back at me. (That my writing has been more important than my research in furthering my area of science suggests that doing hands-on science, which I enjoy, is really just a personal indulgence--quite a curious state of affairs!)

But the book was done quickly, and I was so concerned about keeping my feet and mouth decently distant when talking about physical matters that I barely realized how thin was my coverage of the biology. Some omissions got apologetic mention, others were quietly given the blind eye, and a lot represented simple personal innocence. Mistakes were made, most of which were not accidental, and people wrote to point out (always kindly) the errors of my ways. Mistakes and ambiguities became particularly distressing when I found them contaminating the primary literature--that's not the ideal measure of a book's influence!

Doing a new version is an enormous luxury, one afforded only a small fraction of authors of instructional material. In the present case, correcting errors has turned out to be the smallest part of the task. What I've been able to do is to rewrite the book with what was almost entirely lacking before--a sense of who would use it and what role it would serve. In effect, I now have a criterion by which to judge appropriate content, level, and so forth. I'm still trying to make something that serves a variety of roles. The primary one, as before, is as guide for the biologist who needs to know something about fluids in motion. But I've given more attention to the problem of the biologist or engineer who wants to know a little about what people interested in biological fluid mechanics have been up to. That's what most of the additional material, the near doubling of the number of words, is about. In the earlier version, the three hundred or so references represented the full depth of my plumbing of the relevant literature. In the present one, the seven hundred-odd references are a culling from several thousand sources given some degree of attention. Even so, I'm uncomfortably aware that the job has been a bit superficial and spotty. Part of that reflects limitations of time and energy; part represents the positive conviction that compendia and textbooks are different creatures and that this intends to be one of the latter. But I must forthrightly admit that omissions don't always represent informed or even specific judgments--the book at best gives the flavor of a very heterogeneous area of inquiry and has a story line driven by the physical rather than biological content.

Certain topics have been deliberately omitted to maintain the intended level of presentation, an entry-level work for people with backgrounds typical of biologists. Vorticity, stokeslets, potential flow, the Navier- Stokes equations--none lacks biological relevance, but usefully lacing them into the present discussion didn't seem practical. At least I would have had to violate my first rule for writing--_explain_, don't just _mention_. And some perfectly biological material just got too complicated and specialized, in particular some of the fancier aspects of swimming and flying. For the latter, I've tried to direct the reader toward other sources.

Other topics were omitted as judgments of scope and as simple reasons of space. My focus as a biologist is on organisms, not cells, molecules, habitats, or ecosystems. Fluid mechanics is quite as relevant at levels of organization other than organismal, but the present book simply doesn't worry much about them. Thus for eddy viscosity, for much on gravity waves, for atmospheric, oceanic, lacustrine, and other large-scale motion, for diffusion with drift and flows where the mean free path of molecules is significant, for non-Newtonian and intracellular flows, for convective heat transfer--for these the reader will have to turn elsewhere. Again, I've tried to suggest some appropriate sources. Finally, the appendices on techniques of the earlier edition have disappeared. I just couldn't figure out how to do them justice in a reasonable space, and I think we're now at a stage at which the proper vehicle is some network-accessible bulletin board that permits interaction and continuous alteration.

On the other hand, the new version has gained whole new topics, not just a lot more biological detail and citations. Swimming has surfaced, pumps are now of prime concern, blood flow is no longer dismissed with some sanguine phrases, unsteady flows and the acceleration reaction get a proper start, events at the air-water interface get more than vaporous mention, jet propulsion isn't just recoiled from, Pclt number is present if perhaps peculiarly done, and Froude propulsion efficiency is pushed with dispatch if not great efficiency.

In the preface to the earlier version I offered to send my accumulated teaching material to anyone who wrote to me. Quite a few people took advantage of the offer, and I make it again. The set of problems proved more useful than the other items, so problems are what you'll get if you write (answers, too, unless I get suspicious about your motives).

In going through the bibliography I find citations of no fewer than forty-two people who were part of one or another class in front of which I said my piece. I happily admit the grossest bias in choosing cases and sources, mainly because of my joy in discovering that such large-scale favoritism has been possible. I hope these written words have some similar effect.

Return to Book Description

File created: 8/7/2007

Questions and comments to:
Princeton University Press

New Book E-mails
New In Print
PUP Blog
Princeton APPS
Sample Chapters
Princeton Legacy Library
Exam/Desk Copy
Recent Awards
Princeton Shorts
Freshman Reading
PUP Europe
About Us
Contact Us
PUP Home

Bookmark and Share