Glimpses of Creatures in Their Physical Worlds offers an eye-opening look into how the characteristics of the physical world drive the designs of animals and plants. These characteristics impose limits but also create remarkable and subtle opportunities for the functional biology of organisms. In particular, Steven Vogel examines the size and scale, and trade-offs among different physical processes. He pays attention to how the forms and activities of animals and plants reflect the materials available to nature, and he explores the unique constraints and possibilities provided by fluid flow, structural design, and environmental forces.
Each chapter of the book investigates a facet of the physical world, including the drag on small projectiles; the importance of diffusion and convection; the size-dependence of acceleration; the storage, conduction, and dissipation of heat; the relationship among pressure, flow, and choice in biological pumps; and how elongate structures tune their relative twistiness and bendiness. Vogel considers design-determining factors all too commonly ignored, and builds a bridge between the world described by physics books and the reality experienced by all creatures. Glimpses of Creatures in Their Physical Worlds contains a wealth of accessible information related to functional biology, and requires little more than a basic background in secondary-school science and mathematics.
Drawing examples from creatures of land, air, and water, the book demonstrates the many uses of biological diversity and how physical forces impact biological organisms.
Steven Vogel is James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Biology at Duke University. His numerous books include Comparative Biomechanics (Princeton), and Cats' Paws and Catapults (Norton).
"If what you desire in a readable science book is food for thought, Glimpses of Creatures in their Physical Worlds provides a feast. Biologists, engineers, and physicists—indeed, anyone with curiosity about the natural world—will revel in this smorgasbord of biomechanical ideas."—Mark Denny, American Scientist
"Such a book could be written only by someone with a rich knowledge of biomechanics, and Vogel, an emeritus professor of biology at Duke University, fits the bill. Considered one of the founders of the biomechanics community in the US, his distinguished research career has focused on organism-fluid interactions and such diverse topics as the behavior of leaves in the wind, passive ventilation of prairie-dog burrows, and airflow through the branching antennae of some moths. His breadth of knowledge is clearly reflected in the examples presented and the creative thought embodied in Glimpses of Creatures in Their Physical Worlds. Vogel uses the same approachable, entertaining writing style. . . . [T]his book is sure to serve as an inspiring entry into the field of biomechanics."—Stacey Combes, Physics Today
"It is a fine book and emphasizes important relationships too often neglected."—Choice
"As ever, Vogel is inspiring and his insights are remarkable."—Henry Bennet-Clark, BioScience
"This charismatic book is a fascinating read and Vogel is exceptionally good at presenting the material so that it is accessible to a general audience. The book presents new conceptions, data, and interpretations, but its most impressive aspect is the wide range of diverse examples collected in one place, displaying a lifetime's worth of accumulated knowledge and wisdom."—Amy S. Johnson, Bowdoin College
"The book draws case studies from an enormous diversity of organisms, and the scholarship is meticulous—the sources used and cited are both appropriate and extensive. They not only contribute to the text itself, but also comprise a bibliography that will be widely consulted by students at many levels and by readers interested in pursuing specific topics in more depth."—Sharon Swartz, Brown University