Rossdavidh's Reviews > Why the Wheel Is Round: Muscles, Technology, and How We Make Things Move

Why the Wheel Is Round by Steven Vogel
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really liked it
bookshelves: brown

There are some books which enchant with their use of language. There are some books which include ideas that make it feel like sparks are flying inside your mind. There are books which are deeply moving, emotionally. And then, there are books like this one, which mostly just feel like you are having a conversation with someone you just met, who you like a lot, and hope to become friends with. Steven Vogel's enthusiasm for his topic is infectious, and one gets the impression of a teacher in front of a class, speaking with energy, laughing with delight at the topic he's telling you about. I was moderately interested in the topic (muscles, technology, and how we make things move), but more than anything else I enjoyed this book because it felt like having a great conversation with a new friend.

There are other reasons to like this book, as well. I am a fan of old illustrations, and Vogel shows us woodcuts from Agricola and many other centuries-old books on how to get stuff done. He knows when and how to use a picture along with his thousands of words. He clearly knows his topic in depth, and he also seems to know how to explain in a way that makes sense. I am wondering how much of this material he had cause to test out in front of audiences of university students, such that he knew which parts to linger on, or explain in a different way; there's nothing like the feedback of many faces looking back at you, confused. I was rarely if ever confused while reading this book, and I have no great talent for mechanical devices.

He covers topics like, how is it we took so long to get around to making wheels, and what were the steps along the way? What is a horse-whim? How about a seed fiddle? When you see a drawing of an indeterminate device in ancient Egyptian murals, how do you figure out what it might be? (in his case, you go into your garage and try to replicate it) How do ropes work? (you think you already know, but actually there's a lot more going on than you might realize)

How exactly is it that a falling cat rights itself, mid-fall, so as to "always" land on its feet?

What would cause you to want to read this book? Man, I don't know. You either do or you don't. It's like being in the workshop or garage of a lovable old crank inventor, who shows you one cool old tool or device after another, and explains how they all work. If you don't like that sort of thing, maybe his enthusiasm for it will leave you cold. But I am about as mechanically uninclined as it is possible to be and still have a physical existence, and I found it to be a fun time.
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Reading Progress

May 5, 2019 – Started Reading
May 5, 2019 – Shelved
June 18, 2019 – Shelved as: brown
June 18, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Greta (new)

Greta Beautiful review, Rossdavidh. The author reminds me of my father, except that my father never tested his monologues in front of an audience!


message 2: by Greta (new)

Greta Until recently, when we moved to an appartment, I’ve kept quite a few of his old tools and devices.


Rossdavidh Well Greta, maybe you were just the test audience! :) My daughter "gets" to hear the occasional monologue from her father. When she was 5, she was a more enthusiastic audience, but even at 13 she is politely tolerant.


message 4: by Greta (new)

Greta Rossdavidh wrote: "Well Greta, maybe you were just the test audience! :) My daughter "gets" to hear the occasional monologue from her father. When she was 5, she was a more enthusiastic audience, but even at 13 she i..."

Then you probably haven’t explained her yet how a transmitter works!:)


Rossdavidh I choose not to push my luck. :)


message 6: by Chris (new)

Chris Great review.


Rossdavidh Thanks!


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