It is hard not to be fascinated by a book written by a scientist who, in the last five years, won two Ig Nobel Prizes—for his works on urination of mammals (which is covered in the book) and shape of wombat poo. A parody of the Nobel Prize, the award honors research accomplishments that appear funny (or even useless) at first glance, whereas, upon a deeper look, one realizes that they reveal keen scientific discoveries. Indeed, what makes this book special is the distinct personality and research style of its author. David Hu is a true cross-disciplinary researcher. He is an engineer, a mathematician, a physicist, and a biologist, either by formal training or self-learning. By the time you have finished reading the book, you will agree with me (and the American Institute of Physics judges who selected David for the 2019 AIP Science Communication Award) that he is also a very effective communicator of science to non-specialists.

The author's qualifications aside, the content of the book (as can be surmised from the title) revolves around the fascinating subject of animal locomotion, a topic that has attracted the attention of—and is, therefore, appealing to—scientists, engineers, and the general public alike. The text is organized into eight chapters, excluding introduction and conclusion. Except for the first one, each chapter consists of several stories with a common theme that are all nicely tied together in a few sentences at the end. The book touches on many curious subjects ranging from how dogs shake dry and how dead fish swim, to how long it takes for mammals to urinate, and how fire ants build towers. Throughout the chapters, the author makes a consistent effort to showcase the concepts of optimality and evolutionary adaptation to environmental conditions. Perhaps more importantly, via discussing many concrete examples, he brings to light the fact that, over the years, examining the physics and mechanics of animal movement has afforded mankind an incredibly rich source of inspiration for engineering new tools and machines to improve its own quality of life.

Science and engineering books are often written in robot-style, rendering them tedious reads. I found this book, however, quite entertaining. Because it educates the reader on animal locomotion through a collection of amusing stories, each of which tells the tale of a discovery with humor and vivid details. Some of the stories feature the author's own findings and paths to scientific breakthrough, and the rest report on those of other scientists and engineers. To provide an accurate account of the latter, the author interviewed thirty researchers, an impressive feat in its own right. An especially valuable aspect of the presented stories is that they describe not only notable discoveries but also the investigators' journeys toward them. Such background information can be very illuminating for early-career researchers, who usually want to know where successful researchers get their inspirations from. I also very much appreciate that the science-heavy parts of the book are explained in non-technical plain terms, so as to make the materials accessible to a general audience. To that end, the text is enriched with many elegant analogies (usually from everyday life) that are familiar to a non-specialist reader and thus facilitate the understanding of complex phenomena and concepts introduced in each story.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book, which starts well and ends even better. The last chapter is witty, yet deep—much like the studies for which the author received the Ig Nobel Prize. In his closing remarks, the author shares a personal anecdote detailing how his research was ridiculed by a senator on a nationally televised morning show (Fox and Friends), and how it appeared that he was responsible for 15% of most wasteful research in U.S. This funny tale is followed by a serious discussion about the importance of exploratory research and the unforeseen ways it can lead to future innovations. Regrettably, such a perspective does not seem to be fully appreciated by the current policy makers who are in charge of allocating resources for basic research. To conclude, in my opinion, the book is a great read and it has much to offer for a broad spectrum of audiences, from scientists and engineers (at various levels) to general public (from young adults to elderly).

Hassan Masoud is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University. His research involves employing the tools of applied mathematics and (as of recently) flow visualization experiments to examine the interaction of fluid flows with dynamically changing boundaries at a wide range of length and time scales.