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Their Arrows Will Darken the Sun: The Evolution and Science of Ballistics [Kindle Edition]

Mark Denny

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Book Description

The science of ballistics has a long history and starts with one question: How does a projectile move through the air? Even before physicists worked that one out, military engineers had been tinkering with ballistic devices for centuries. The trebuchet of the Middle Ages has given way to rocket power, and the science of ballistics has evolved to match the technology. Mark Denny's survey covers this dynamic subject from prehistory to the weapons of tomorrow.Taking the bang-whiz-thud approach, Denny first talks about internal ballistics -- Bang! -- from before gunpowder to the development of modern firearms. External ballistics -- Whiz! -- are next, with discussions about short- and long-range trajectories. Denny's lesson ends with a Thud! -- an explanation of terminal ballistics. Throughout, Denny conveys applicable physics principles in a way that will appeal to technology buffs and ballistics enthusiasts alike. His fun and factual explanations are free of complicated equations; notes cover the key aspects of ballistics physics for the more technically inclined. Denny has perfected this engaging balance of science and story. For study or hobby, Their Arrows Will Darken the Sun is an entertaining guide to the world of ballistics.Praise for Mark Denny"For a scientist, Denny's approach is delightfully down to earth." -- The Age"Denny's writing is anything but dry and boring. He adeptly explains complex subject matter and does so with relatively simple language and minimal use of symbolic notation." -- Bat Research News

Product Description


Denny is a physicist who has written several science-related books for general audiences... Much of the book is written in a chatty style, often in the first person.


Perhaps the most useful book on ballistics for the layman ever.

(A. A. Nofi StrategyPage)


For a scientist, Denny's approach is delightfully down to earth.

(The Age)

Denny's writing is anything but dry and boring. He adeptly explains complex subject matter and does so with relatively simple language and minimal use of symbolic notation.

(Bat Research News)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2835 KB
  • Print Length: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (7 April 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #770,022 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything (Almost) on Ballistics 2 May 2011
By G. Poirier - Published on
After I purchased this book, I realized that I had already read two others by this same author - both excellent. This set my expectations for the present book; I was not disappointed. In this splendid work, the author discusses the science of ballistics over the ages - from throwing rocks in pre-historic times to the latest in weapons technology. One thing that is made crystal clear in this book is that there is more to projectile delivery than one might think. The author has covered the physics of ballistics in three main sections: the launching of a projectile, the flight of the projectile and the interaction of the projectile with the intended target. The main body of the text is loaded with information as well as detailed explanations of the many physical principles involved. It is also well illustrated with plenty of graphs, tables, diagrams and photos. For those who are mathematically inclined, the author has included a set of 22 technical notes at the end of the main text; these give the interested reader more insight into the physics and mathematics of what is happening.

Overall, I found the information presented to be quite fascinating - even, at times, surprising. Although the explanations were generally clear, a few were a bit heavy going for me and slowed me down. I found the mathematical details in the technical notes to be quite useful. Most of the formula derivations in those notes were clear, some were more challenging to varying degrees, while others were simply presented without derivation (usually, the author asserts, because their derivations would be too lengthy and beyond the scope of the book).

The author writes clearly and authoritatively. His style is quite engaging, lively and often witty. This is a book that would likely be most appreciated by science buffs or any reader who is seriously interested in the science of ballistics, including those taking a course on this subject.
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Credibility Under Fire: Glaring factual errors in Part I 13 Sept. 2011
By Wayne A. Baughman - Published on
Unfortunately, this book does not appear to have been carefully fact-checked or edited. It is a nifty topic and written in an engaging style. But Dr. Denny presents at least two factual errors in Chapter 3, one which describes the development of modern firearms. There is an awful lot in this book that is very interesting that I do not have the background experience and training to evaluate. But I *do* know a good bit about modern handguns. To most trained handgunners, the two factual errors I note below might be the equivalent of getting the wrong answer on an American history test question similar to, "Who was the first President of the United States?"

I know that theoretical physics is Dr. Denny's academic discipline and not firearms or any other history. But he presents information in this book as authoritative and presents himself as a credible authority. Having found these errors calls into question the credibility of other statements he makes throughout the book, even those pertaining to ballistics. After all, conscientious, detailed fact-checking is important for non-fiction book authors, and I think most would agree it should be all the more important when presenting information outside one's area of expertise.

So here goes.

On page 56, first paragraph, he describes that a person rapid-firing a double-action revolver will, "...repeatedly pull the trigger, which cocks and fires the gun, ejects the spent cartridge and loads the next round, all from the same trigger pull." In fact, double-action revolvers do not automatically eject spent cartridges and load new rounds. The text actually describes the functioning of a semi-automatic pistol, not a revolver.

Speaking of semi-automatic pistols, on page 62, second paragraph, Dr. Denny writes that semi-automatic pistols were invented by Hugo Schmeisser in 1916. In fact, the first commercially successful semi-automatic pistol was designed by Hugo Borchardt and appeared in 1894. Moreover, by 1916, John Browning's famous M1911 .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol had already been adopted (in 1911) by the U.S. Army as its standard sidearm after several years of development and extensive competitive trials.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nicely written but way too technical for the general reader and maybe not technical enough for the technically accomplished. 27 Feb. 2015
By lyndonbrecht - Published on
This is a book on a technical topic by an expert, trying to get across complicated concepts to an educated public but not one knowledgeable in ballistics. I do not have the technical expertise to know how well he does it, so see other reviews for that. I know now how complex the subject is, but I don't think I learned much, because I was unable to figure out several of the things he covered.

The book does offer some interesting information. The 7,000 longbowmen at Crecy fired a half million arrows. He describes how a crossbow works, shaped charges and such. I was unaware of the complexity of simply firing a cannonball, say: initial velocity, angle of the cannon, rotation of the ball, factors of wind, gravity, resistance of air, irregularities of propellant, all these and more are involved--I do not have mastery of the various technical terms. I now have much more respect for the technical capacity of designers and operators of such things.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Missile Weapons, From Rocks to Rockets 6 Sept. 2012
By A. A. Nofi - Published on
Excerpt from the review on StrategyPage.Com:

"A look at how missile weapons work from Edinburgh University theoretical physicist Denny, who has written several notable works explaining science and technology for the layman, such as Ingenium: Five Machines That Changed the World and Blip, Ping, and Buzz: Making Sense of Radar and Sonar.

"Denny divides his subject into three broad categories, dealing with internal, external, and terminal ballistics. Approaching his subject with some humor, he then begins literally at the beginning, with the ballistics of rocks, javelins, and slings, then goes on to bows and war engines. Naturally the main focus is on gunpowder and other chemical propellant weapons. Denny examines the performance of guns, artillery, and rockets based on the nature of propellants, the differences between weapons intended for long range or for short range use, and more, including how missile weapons do their damage."

For the rest of the review, see StrategyPage.Com
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not relevant to long range shooters-not relevant to physics or math nerds: disappoints everyone 28 Aug. 2014
By NiQ - Published on
disappointing is the word. first of all, the book is not dense enough for physics majors to waste time & process of elimination implies that it is geared for non-physics majors. Unfortunately, this is where the book misses its mark.

I hate these types of books where in trying to educate the general public does not engage in a step-by-step break-down of the equations ie using a simple example & then building on it. Instead the author gets uppity by including technical notes which are derivations w/o explanations & the derivations are not complicated but lack real world applications.

this type of books is also found in finance books which assume that mbas still remember their high school AP or IB physics or math classes. I dont. I was hoping to find formulas to determine distance for long range shooting. but this book was not helpful in that area. The author introduces a bunch of topics or areas using ww2 & modern equivalents to show progress but again the info is very generic & the complex nature is not present as the author states it's way too complex[cheap shot]. You cant have it both ways

might have to get byran litz's book..?
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