From its beginnings in the middle of the 20th century, the field of systems dynamics and feedback control has rapidly become both a core science for mathematicians and engineers and a remarkably mature field of study. As early as 20 years ago, textbooks (and professors) could be found that purported astoundingly different and widely varying approaches and tools for this field. From block diagrams to signal flow graphs and bond graphs, the diversity of approaches, and the passion with which they were defended (or attacked), made any meeting of systems and control professionals a lively event.
Although the various tools of the field still exist, there appears to be a consensus forming that the tools are secondary to the insight they provide. The field of system dynamics is nothing short of a unique, useful, and utterly different way of looking at natural and manmade systems. With this in mind, this text takes a rather neutral approach to the tools of the field, instead emphasizing insight into the underlying physics and the similarity of those physical effects across the various domains.
This book has its roots as lecture notes from Lowen Shearer's senior-level mechanical engineering course at Penn State in the 1970s with additions from Bohdan Kulakowski's and John Gardner's experiences since the 1980s. As such, it reveals those roots by beginning with lumped-parameter mechanical systems, engaging the student on familiar ground.