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Nuts and Bolts: Seven Small Inventions That Changed the World (in a Big Way)

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The idea that small and simple things can be big and complex things in disguise is one that’s fascinated novelists for centuries. In Jane Austen’s world, for example, the merest of imagined slights can have the most far-reaching and dramatic of outcomes, leaving us wondering just how crucial the minutiae of manners can be in constructing a wider social context. From the physics behind both Roman nails and modern skyscrapers to rudimentary springs that inspired lithium batteries, Agrawal shows us how even the most sophisticated items are built on the foundations of these ancient and fundamental breakthroughs in engineering.” Well, she says, everything we made was fashioned out of a single piece of engineering material. A toppled tree trunk spanning a stream was our bridge, while the cave was our home. The nail, along with its derivatives – such as the rivet, screw and bolt – meant that we could expand our horizons by joining things together. Another of her subjects – string – helped in a similar way, although this was a technology we could entangle and wind to bind a shard of flint to an axe handle, or adapt into products as diverse as clothing and guitar strings.

Nuts and Bolts: Seven Small Inventions That Changed the World Nuts and Bolts: Seven Small Inventions That Changed the World

A splendid book: clearly written, elegantly structured and full of facts you are unlikely to chance on anywhere else’ DAILY MAIL Take the story of Stephanie Kwolek, a chemistry major who in 1946 got a job at the chemicals company DuPont and invented poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide (Kevlar fibre to you). Agrawal says Kwolek’s discovery was “all the more noteworthy because it took place in an industry that, at the time, was extremely male-dominated.” Tracing the surprising journeys of each invention through the millennia, Roma reveals how handmade Roman nails led to modern skyscrapers, how the potter's wheel enabledspace exploration, and how humble lenses helped her conceive a child against the odds. She invites us to marvel at these small but perfectly formed inventions, sharing the stories of the remarkable, and often unknown, scientists and engineers who made them possible. The nuts and bolts that make up our world may be tiny, and are often hidden, but they've changed our lives in dramatic ways. Smartphones, skyscrapers, spacecraft. Modern technology seems mind-bogglingly complex. But beneath the surface, it can be beautifully simple.Explaining the workings of familiar objects is a well-worn conceit. Agrawal enriches her account by showing how her chosen devices also work in combination, creating artefacts as unlikely as they are exotic. So, while Cochran’s dishwasher sits at the heart of the discussion of wheels, the chapter ends with a stellar flourish, describing the four 100kg gyroscopes, spinning 6,600 times a minute, whose angular momentum stabilises the International Space Station in Earth orbit. Some of engineering’s mightiest achievements are small in scale, even hidden—and yet, without them, the complex machinery on which our modern world runs would not exist. While it’s tempting to think of ‘Nuts and Bolts’ as an examination of old-fashioned things relegated to rusty tobacco tins in sheds, it’s also worth keeping in mind that the phrase ‘nuts and bolts’ has passed into our everyday language to signify what’s really important about any situation. Tracing the surprising journeys of each invention through the millennia, Roma reveals how handmade Roman nails led to modern skyscrapers, how the potter's wheel enabled space exploration, and how humble lenses helped her conceive a child against the odds. She invites us to marvel at these small but perfectly formed inventions, sharing the stories of the remarkable, and often unknown, scientists and engineers who made them possible. The nuts and bolts that make up our world may be tiny, and are often hidden, but they've changed our lives in dramatic ways. About the author

Nuts and Bolts | Roma Agrawal | 9781529340075 | NetGalley Nuts and Bolts | Roma Agrawal | 9781529340075 | NetGalley

What form did this extreme domination take? No good asking Kwolek who, by her own account, “was fortunate that I worked under men who were very much interested in making discoveries and inventions. Because they were so interested in what they were doing, they left me alone.”In Nuts and Bolts, award-winning Shard engineer and broadcaster Roma Agrawal deconstructs our most complex feats of engineering into seven fundamental inventions:the nail, spring, wheel, lens, magnet, string and pump. Each of these objects is itself a wonder of design, the result of many iterations and refinements. Together, they have enabled humanity to see the invisible, build the spectacular, communicate across vast distances, and even escape our planet. The idea for ‘Nuts and Bolts’ has been with the author most of her life, and she recalls her childhood in New York where she whiled away her time decoding the “sheer scale and drama” of the skyscrapers that surrounded her. This curiosity extended to cars, computers and coffee machines, leading her down a path not only to a successful career in engineering, but also towards a deep understanding of the evolution of these early innovations that would become fascinating chapters in a book about who we were, are and will be as humans. Roma Agrawal is an engineer, author and presenter who is best known for working on the design of The Shard, Western Europe's tallest tower. She studied engineering atImperial College London and physics at the University of Oxford. Roma has given talks to thousands at universities, schools and organisations around the world, including TEDx. So, as engineers, let’s place the good of the planet and its inhabitants at the heart of our work,” Agrawal concludes, with a glibness that would be funny if it were not so trying. A splendid book: clearly written, elegantly structured and full of facts you are unlikely to chance on anywhere else' DAILY MAIL

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