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Dinosaurs, Spitfires and Sea Dragons By Christopher McGowan

Dinosaurs, Spitfires and Sea Dragons

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Drawing on basic concepts of science and engineering, the author examines the nature of the dinosaurs that dominated the Earth during the Mesozoic Period and argues that the best approach to studying extinct animals is to study living ones.
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Dinosaurs, Spitfires and Sea Dragons Summary


Dinosaurs, Spitfires and Sea Dragons by Christopher McGowan

The Mesozoic Era is often referred to as the Age of Dinosaurs, for during its 150 million years these "terrible lizards" dominated the earth. While the gigantic reptiles that enthrall today's schoolchildren - the tyrannosaurs, triceratops, and stegosaurus - lumbered through the subtropical landscape, the pterosaurs ruled the skies, and the ichthyosaurs swam the seas. Perhaps the greatest fascination Mesozoic reptiles hold for us is their amazing size. How, for example, did Brachiosuarus carry a weight thirteen times that of an African elephant? And how did the largest of pterosaurs, with the wingspan of an executive jet, manage to become airborne? The smaller dinosaurs present their own puzzles: modern reptiles, being cold-blooded, rely on the use for warmth and are relatively inactive at night. They also lack stamina and are unable to sustain top running speeds for long periods. Some of their ancestors, such as the kangaroo-sized Dromaeosaurus, had the well-developed legs of a natural runner. Could they have been warm-blooded and able to continue their activities at night, as mammals do? Given that the Mesozoic Era ended 65 million years ago, how can we possibly solve these mysteries? The best approach to understanding extinct animals, argues Christopher McGowan, is to study living ones. What, for example, can giraffe physiology tell us about the thirty-foot neck of a brachiosaur? To give his analysis even more breadth, McGowan draws on basic concepts f science and engineering to explain curiosities such as the similarities between the aerodynamics of pteranodons and Spitfires. This book is replete with topics of broad interest: warm-bloodedness, running capabilities, intellect, the mechanical properties of bone, gigantism, bird-dinosaur relationships, skeletal design, fossils and preservation, and extinction. Yet, the author reminds us, we by no means have all the answers. We may build lifelike models of dinosaurs for museum displays, but we do not really know what colour they were or what sounds they made.

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Dinosaurs, Spitfires and Sea Dragons Reviews


The net effect of this book is to make one extremely jealous of anyone lucky enough to take Professor McGowan's class in evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto...The problem with the several dinosaur controversies is that merely to argue about them requires an appreciation of many aspects of Newtonian physics, aero- and thermodynamics and both applied and theoretical geophysics. Since one wishes to be read by more than the world's half-dozen genuine polymaths, one must explain everything along the way, and that is the stunning success of this book. It is a text that can be read with profit by a teen-ager willing to learn a few new words and by a professional in the field of paleontology. -- M. R. Montgomery "Boston Globe"
A wonderful book...Ultimately the great virtue of this book is that it faces down our instinctive desire to leap from bone to biology and in so doing produces a particular kind of wisdom which transcends its subject matter. For implicit in how McGowan and his kind have approached the dinosaur is a point of view humans almost never assume about themselves. How much are we pure physics? Our walks, our musculature, our electric nerve impulses?...Delicious...In addition to its intellectual strengths, for a book that is often technical, "Dinosaurs, Spitfires and Sea Dragons" is extremely well-written...The lovely word 'classic' is already engraved upon it. But be advised: This is a science classic. It requires close reading. It demands not just that we approach, but that we be prepared to learn. But is not that the lesson hiding in our fascination with the dinosaurs in the first place? -- Stephen Strauss "Toronto Globe and Mail"
You don't have to be an eight-year-old to fall in love with "Dinosaurs, Spitfires, and Sea Dragons,.".Fun, scholarly, imaginatively written and wondrously anecdotal, this is the perfect companion for eight-year-olds of all ages.
The net effect of [this] book is to make one extremely jealous of anyone lucky enough to take Professor McGowan's class in evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto...The problem with the several dinosaur controversies is that merely to argue about them requires an appreciation of many aspects of Newtonian physics, aero- and thermodynamics and both applied and theoretical geophysics. Since one wishes to be read by more than the world's half-dozen genuine polymaths, one must explain everything along the way, and that is the stunning success of this book. It is a text that can be read with profit by a teen-ager willing to learn a few new words and by a professional in the field of paleontology.--M. R. Montgomery "Boston Globe "
[A] wonderful book...Ultimately the great virtue of this book is that it faces down our instinctive desire to leap from bone to biology and in so doing produces a particular kind of wisdom which transcends its subject matter. For implicit in how McGowan and his kind have approached the dinosaur is a point of view humans almost never assume about themselves. How much are we pure physics? Our walks, our musculature, our electric nerve impulses?...Delicious...In addition to its intellectual strengths, for a book that is often technical, "Dinosaurs, Spitfires and Sea Dragons" is extremely well-written...The lovely word 'classic' is already engraved upon it. But be advised: This is a science classic. It requires close reading. It demands not just that we approach, but that we be prepared to learn. But is not that the lesson hiding in our fascination with the dinosaurs in the first place?--Stephen Strauss "Toronto Globe and Mail "
At last, a grown-up's book about dinosaurs. This beautifully illustrated work, written by a literate scientist for an educated lay audience, shines a bright new light into the darkness of the 150-million-year reign of the dinosaurs...An altogether captivating book.--John Wilkes "Los Angeles Times "

Table of Contents


Material things; primary data; how the vertebrate skeleton works; reading a dinosaur skeleton; a matter of scale; what's hot and what's not; brains and intellect; not wholly a fish; the mechanics of swimming; the sea dragons; the winged phantom; out with a whimper or a bang?; epilogue.

Additional information

GOR009096365
Dinosaurs, Spitfires and Sea Dragons by Christopher McGowan
Christopher McGowan
Used - Well Read
Hardback
Harvard University Press
1991-05-09
378
0674207696
9780674207691
N/A
Book picture is for illustrative purposes only, actual binding, cover or edition may vary.
This is a used book. We do our best to provide good quality books for you to read, but there is no escaping the fact that it has been owned and read by someone else previously. Therefore it will show signs of wear and may be an ex library book.