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Their Arrows Will Darken the Sun: The Evolution and Science of Ballistics Paperback – 22 Mar 2011
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"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."(Choice)
"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) See all Product description
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
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.
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.
"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
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.
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