Get out your credit card and get some...

Science Books

March 9, 2006

The Mobius Strip: Dr. August Mobius's Marvelous Band in Mathematics, Games, Literature, Art, Technology, and Cosmology
Clifford A. Pickover (2006)
ISBN: 1560258268

Like infinity, general relativity and cocktail umbrellas, the Mobius strip is a difficult thing for the human mind to comprehend. For the uninitiated, a Mobius strip is a circle with a twist, and the twist is that its one side and one edge is a continuous, infinite loop. A toddler could make one using a strip of paper and a dab of glue, but gazing upon its simple design would probably remain a counter-intuitive exercise. Beginning with the Mobius strip's discovery during the mid-1800s by Dr. August Mobius, Clifford Pickover shows how the strange characteristics of the strip affect our everyday lives in addition to the most profound mathematical and physical problems of today. Whether it is science, art or engineering, Pickover highlights the miraculous in what would otherwise be considered mundane. Pickover's musings on the Mobius strip also act as an entry into explorations of other similarly curious objects. While these include other objects of continuity, there are also chiral objects, which are mirror images that are impossible to superimpose upon one another. Whether we realize it or not, the implications of the Mobius strip have made a significant impact on the human psyche. Both Arthur C. Clarke and M. C. Escher owe part of their success to the Mobius strip, as do ski jumpers who vainly try to cheat gravity by mimicking the continuous loop in the "Mobius flip." Despite the book's un-Mobius like design, readers will continuously enjoy return visits to pick-over the contents of this charming book.

Success Through Failure: The Paradox of Design
Henry Petroski (2006)
ISBN: 0691122253

"It's not how you start, but how you finish," the saying goes, which is really rather fortunate for engineers and designers. Henry Petroski, Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of History at Duke University, has written an engaging and stimulating book that is the intellectual equivalent of a "bloopers" reel. Petroski argues that success is not something that can be readily imitated, implying that failure is often an integral part of success. Successful design and invention is a process of improving and building upon present designs and what has gone before. The implications of this are unsettling, as it means that many of our structures today are imperfect and in need of improvement. To this end, Petroski dons his designer's hat and offers his opinion on some of the worlds biggest design blunders and how they may have been avoided, such as the destruction of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940 and the space shuttle disasters. Petroski also brings his historical knowledge to the fore when he explores the most distant roots of human invention and design. He offers intriguing insights into how social behaviors and attitudes through human history have affected and influenced large structures and organizations. Petroski argues that a string of successes attributed to an organization can often lead to over-confidence, which may later manifest itself as spectacular design failure. Using his intimidating engineering knowledge, Petroski points the finger at particular structures that are likely to succumb to inherent design flaws in the near future (note to self: stay away from bridges, aircraft and skyscrapers).

[Back to the Main Books Page]

Top of page     Home page     Forums     About

The terms and conditions governing your use of this website.

© 1997 - 2016 McMurdo Media Pty Ltd and its licensors. All rights reserved.