01/11/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Prometheus Books. 328 page illustrated and indexed hardback. Price: $29.98 (US) but I got mine for about £12.00 (UK) so shop around for the best bargain. ISBN: 1-59102-243-6.
check out website: www.prometheusbooks.com
I've said in the past that scientists come up with the theory and ideas but engineers are the ones who put it into practice and make it technology. Something that is often forgot with Science Fiction and something I've decided needs a separate chapter in my SF Nomenclature chapter series, hence the additional research and combining research with review for the selected bibliography.
'The Masterworks Of Technology' by E.E. Lewis is a great introduction to how technology developed as a means to improve things. Take the wheel for instance. The reason it existed with struts in it was to reduce the weight and still keep its relative strength for moving things around. Lewis explains how artistry and craftsmen worked in tandem with each other before it became more scientific, mostly because artists were the only ones capable of producing the designs before it became a technical practice. It was no wonder the likes of Leonardo da Vinci was the inventor who could combine it all.
It might be seen as if the wheel was the only thing not copied from nature but that said, it could also be said of the arch. There might be natural ones around but most were far too fragile to walk on. A cave might be seen as an amphitheatre but the maths in creating an arch explains how cathedrals were created so early.
The evolution of the steam engine was more for effective use of power and as with things today, took some convincing that it was the way to go. The reduced weight made it possible to make railway engines work before progression to cars with a different kind of engine. By that time, there was less need for experts and the use of factory workers who only had to concern themselves with putting parts together.
A book such as this also covers the development of the space rocket and what it took to get to the Moon before moving onto the simpler space shuttle that only had to achieve orbit.
This book is an excellent way to get a grounding in how things are built and developed without getting too technical which if you're into world-building will give you a decent grounding to understanding why things are done and nothing developed in a vacuum but for practical need. It won't turn you into an engineer but the insight will stay with you.
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