An astonishing tour-de-force, three years in the making, by the architect-turned-author who has given us Cathedral and City. Here, he turns his talents to describing how things as diverse as parking meters, nail clippers, computers, lightning rods, helicopters, staplers, zippers, etcare constructed, with the principles underlying their operation. Large, clear, complete drawings for each contain unexpected little details, providing hours of enlightenment and discovery. There are four sections--movement, the elements, waves, electricity--with the items in each following the author's own idiosyncratic logic. Virtually nowhere do explanations lapse into vague generalities--indeed, some are specific enough to tax the experts. The sections are introduced by a series of goofy misadventures involving woolly mammoths, which will amuse some and irritate others; but the whole spirit of the book is so lively that most readers will be charmed. The technical text, credited to Nell Ardley, is careful, pedantic, and occasionally awkward; it sometimes lapses into British usage--electrical "earth" for "ground," "silencer" for "muffler." But these are minor flaws in an otherwise grand book. A brief history of technology is included.