Book Review

Review: “Life in Moving Fluids”

If you liked the prairie dog post earlier this week and you’re interested in more examples of biological fluid dynamics, you may enjoy Steven Vogel’s “Life in Moving Fluids”. I’m often asked for suggestions of readable textbooks for those who want an introduction to fluid dynamics, and this book is a great option. It addresses a wide variety of basic fluids concepts without getting as bogged down mathematically as many of the engineering texts do. It is written as an introduction to fluid dynamics for working biologists, though, so it contains plenty of technical detail – including relevant equations, discussions of basic flow measurement techniques, and overviews of the early academic literature.

It is also chock full of interesting biological applications of fluid dynamics with examples ranging from the growth patterns of barnacles to the shape-shifting drag capabilities of trees. Vogel keeps a light-hearted tone and dry humor throughout and doesn’t shy away from puns.

I read a first edition of the book (copyright 1981). The second edition, from the mid ‘90s, has updated coverage of the research literature, but I dare say the the topic has exploded within the last 20 years, so your mileage may vary with regard to the literature review. However, age in no way impacts the quality of Vogel’s coverage of the basics of fluid dynamics, and I feel confident in recommending this as an introductory text for those who’d like to pursue fluids in more depth.  (Images: S. Vogel/Princeton U. Press; h/t to Chris R.)

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