Shape and structure, from engineering to nature. (English) Zbl 0983.74002

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. xix, 324 p. (2000).
The book starts from design and optimization of engineer systems, and then the author discusses a deterministic principle for generation of geometric forms in natural systems. Shape and structure spring from the competition for better performance in both engineering and nature. This observation leads to the thought that the objective and constraint principle used in engineering is also the mechanism from which the geometry emerges in natural flow systems. This principle accounts not only for tree-shaped flows but also for other geometric forms encountered in engineering and nature – round ducts, regularly spaced internal channels, and the proportionality between width and depth in rivers.
Optimal distribution of imperfections is a principle that generates the form, if the system is destined to stay imperfect. The system works best when its imperfections are spread around, so that more and more of the internal points are stressed as much as the constructal principle demands: objective serves better under the grip of global and local constraints.
The book unifies the engineered and natural worlds. Among the topics covered in twelve chapters are mechanical structures, thermal structures, heat trees, ducts and rivers, turbulent structures, and structures in transport and economics. Numerous illustrations, examples, and homework problems in every chapter constitute an ideal text for engineering design courses. The provocative ideas of this book will also appeal to a broad community of readers in engineering, natural sciences, economics, and business. The book is complete, eminently readable, and is accessible to novices and experts working in the above-mentioned fields.


74-02 Research exposition (monographs, survey articles) pertaining to mechanics of deformable solids
74P20 Geometrical methods for optimization problems in solid mechanics
74K99 Thin bodies, structures
80M50 Optimization problems in thermodynamics and heat transfer