Biomechanics of Flight

Carl Gans, Paul W. Webb, U. M. Norberg
1990 BioScience  
This expensive tilde baok represents a tour de force: it really does cover (and illustrate) thc substantial array of topies implied by the üde and does so in a balanced fa shion in approximatcly 300 pages. In covering the vast majority of quesrions in [his wide realrn, U. M. Norberg provides an excellent initial guide to the field of vertebrale fl ight. Thc book reviews the literature on the subject in considerable detail, and ir provides the pertinent equations. However, the text remaios
more » ... le for those lacking ca1culus. Thc illustrations afe d ea r, simplifying the principles without offering too milch distracting detail. Indeed, the book is exceptionally weil iIIustrated, with graphs, drawings, aud photographs docilmenting the major phenomena as weB as the basic principles. Three major (hemes weave through the text: the biomechanics of flight and perfonna nee, the high power requirements 01 Oight. and the habitat opportuniries for Oyees. Theoretical discussions of basic acrodynamics and energy metabolism are followed bya elear mathematieal exposition of flight mechanics, energetics, and scaling. Students rrying to learn aboilt loeomotion in fluids, both air and water, 3re often eonfused by the nUffiher of different theoretieal approaches to a common problem. They will be delighted by Norberg's clear discussion of the strcngths and weaknesses of va rious approaches. The most imponam feature of this book, however, is not the treatment of the physics of gliding .nd flying, muscle physiology~ and skeletal me-688 ehanies nor the excellent illustrations and review of the literature. lnstead, it is the presentation of eomplex numerical relationships, both from biomeehanics and physiology, in a natural-history framework. Biomeehanics, analyzing the properties of morphologkai and behavio ral characteristics, provides the link between form aod habitat. (n addition to the naturalhistory perspeccive throughout the text, ecological implications are explicitly discussed in one chapter. Furthermote, Notbe rg recognizes the importance of locornOlor energy requirements in ecological studies and does a grear service by explieitly evaluating and recommending various mechanical models. There is also abrief discussion of the evolution of the flighr system. Norbcrg presents strong arguments for a transition to flight from gliding, although here she somewhat overstates her case. The diseussions interrelating meehanies, performance, energeties, morphology, natural history, and evolution permit studenrs to eomprehend the material, recognize its limitations, aod initiate more detailed discussion. Thc only unacceptable as-peet of the volume is the price (approximately filty cents per page), which will keep this useful monograph outof the hands of graduate students and prevent its use in senior undergraduate seminars, for which it would be ideal. The cost raises the issue that authors, as well as publishers, have a tesponsibiliry t O mainrain priees within the reaeh of potential readers.
doi:10.2307/1311438 fatcat:ga2yjwsxirdkteggd6rqyxa734