Q&A with author Vincent De Sapio


What motivated you to write Advanced Analytical Dynamics?

When I took dynamics courses in my mechanical engineering curriculum I found that while there were a lot of excellent textbooks out there, there weren’t many that provide a comprehensive coverage across Newtonian, Lagrangian, and Hamiltonian mechanics as well higher order variational principles. In fact there are not many dynamics textbooks that cover higher order variational principles like Jourdain’s Principle of virtual power, Gauss’ Principle of Least Constraint, or the Gibbs-Appel approach, at all. Also, more modern formulations like task space dynamics, used mostly in robotics are generally not covered in dynamics textbooks

It’s valid to point out that it’s not necessary to cover every approach to solving multibody dynamics problems developed in the history of classical mechanics. From a practical standpoint that’s true, but I think it enriches the learning experience immeasurably to have some historical context and understand the variety of different approaches that all have contributed to our collective understanding of the subject. I was fundamentally motivated by this idea.

“I was fundamentally motivated by this idea.”

Who is the primary audience for Advanced Analytical Dynamics?

The primary audience is graduate students in engineering, applied mathematics and physics. Also engineering researchers inside and outside of academia are an intended audience.

Based on your previous answer to the primary audience of the book, what are the market needs/key challenges this audience faces?

The key challenge is to provide a thorough, yet accessible, coverage of the fundamental theory and principles of dynamics. The theory can be made more accessible with illustrative examples and application oriented chapters. Ultimately, a firm grounding in theory is useful (at least from an engineering perspective) only if there is some application of that theory to real world problems.

Does your book solved this need/challenge?

I believe my book addresses this challenge by systematically building up from foundational principles and illustrating the theory with concrete examples. I also devote an entire chapter to musculoskeletal biomechanics, a rapidly emerging application area for multibody dynamics.

What unique features do you think make the book stand out in the market?

I think that the extensive, yet relatively compact, coverage of a wide swath of conservation and variational principles in analytical dynamics is one feature. The coverage of task space dynamics is another, along with a detailed chapter on multibody dynamics of musculoskeletal systems.

What does your current research program look like and what are you working on?

I am fortunate to be able to work on a number of interesting projects at HRL Labs. These have included programs related to goal-directed neuromuscular control of movement, human factors simulation, and coupled neurocognitive and neuromechanical models for enhanced human-machine interfaces. I am currently involved in programs related to autonomous driving and neuromorphic computing. A current research interest that I would like to pursue more fully involves biologically inspired motor control using networks of artificial spiking neurons. It is interesting to note that all of these projects have some component which involves multibody dynamical systems.

You can access Chapter 5 ‘Zeroth order variational principles’ of Advanced Dynamics for free until the 31st February 2018. The book is available to purchase here.

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