One day in the office I and my science journalist colleague Matin Durrani were chatting about a popular science book. We hadn’t enjoyed it. We reckoned we could do better. So we decided to put our money – or at least our words – where our mouths were. And the tale of Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life began.
As the name suggest, Furry Logic is about animals. And physics. The link doesn’t seem obvious but animals, including people, use physics every day, whether they’re aware of it or not. That bee buzzing round a flower is exploiting fluid dynamics to stay in the air. Pondskaters “know” enough about surface tension to perform miracles and walk on water. And when you run your body “calculates” how much force you need to push off the ground and speed yourself along.
In November 2012, PhysicsWorld magazine, which Matin edits, did a special issue on Animal Physics (hat-tip to PhysicsWorld features editor Louise Mayor for the idea). Stars included dogs that use simple harmonic motion to shake water from their fur and dodge hypothermia, mosquitoes that use Newton’s laws of motion to defy death by raindrop, and the hornet that has a built-in solar cell. These originals made it into Furry Logic, along with loggerhead turtles that loop round the Atlantic with the aid of their own magnetic compass, Miguel the tweeting electric eel, elephants that sense danger through their feet, and more.
There is no such thing as a “Department of Animal Physics” so the researchers working in this area are scattered far and wide – in departments of biology, of engineering, of physics… After nearly two years tracking these scientists down and crafting their fascinating discoveries, and the lives of the animals they study, into stories, our work is done. The illustrations and cover design are ready and we’re all set to check the proofs. Then it’s next stop, publication – on October 6th in the UK and January 31st 2017 in the US.
That chat in 2013 led not to a coffee break, a match analysis or a pub trip, but a book. A chance for us both to turn over, or at least create, a new leaf. We hope you enjoy it.