Book Review: Their Arrows Will Darken the Sun: The Evolution and Science of Ballistics


by Mark Denny

Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011. Pp. vii, 324. Illus., diagr., tables, append., notes, biblio., index. $30.00 paper. ISBN: 0801898579

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. 

The work is very well illustrated, has numerous surprisingly clear tables and diagrams, and tends to avoid complex math and techno-speech.  For those interested in such matters, there is lengthy appendix labeled “Technical Notes”. 

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


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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