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Fantastic Feats and Failures

by editors of YES Mag

Fantastic Feats and Failures explores the engineering ingenuity and flaws of buildings, bridges, and vehicles around the world. Its authors, editors of a kids’ bi-monthly science magazine, display their proven expertise at explaining scientific, technological, and engineering concepts in a thoroughly involving, entertaining, and informative style in their second book.

Each entry centres on the engineering design components key to a project’s success or failure. The explanatory writing is clear, precise, and lively; the tone invitingly enthusiastic, humorous, and smart. The information is well paced and presented in easily digested, comprehensible segments, which is no easy feat when dealing with complex engineering principles and terminology. The page layout and design are visually dynamic and attractive. The text, set on blueprint paper, is accompanied by photographs, diagrams, illustrations, and projects that bring alive the design concept under discussion.

The Feats category features landmark structures including the Sydney Opera House, CN Tower, and Eiffel Tower – all originally greeted with skepticism. The Eiffel Tower, built for the Paris World Fair in 1889, was mockingly called “the tragic lamppost” and “hollow candlestick.” The structure was supposed to stand for only 20 years, but engineer Gustave Eiffel’s inventive solutions to the problems of wind force and a soggy foundation led to its distinctive design and longevity.

The old adage that we learn as much, if not more, from our failures is the theme of the sections on Failures, which includes cautionary entries on the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle and the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Spotlighted are resourceful solutions employed to stave off potentially fatal design flaws, as in the entry on the Apollo 13 space mission. The book is a fascinating ode to the practical magic of engineering