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Stuff Matters Hardcover – International Edition, July 30, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Utterly captivating. Every piece of 'stuff' we take for granted in our daily lives has a rich story to tell. A real delight -- Jim Al-Khalili, author of Paradox Wonderful. Miodownik writes well enough to make even concrete sparkle Financial Times Insightful, fascinating. The futuristic materials will elicit gasps. Makes even the most everyday substance seem exciting Sunday Times Enthralling ... a mission to re-acquaint us with the wonders of the fabric that sustains our lives Guardian Expert, deftly written, immensely enjoyable Observer A certain sort of madness may be necessary to pull of what he has attempted here, which is a wholesale animation of the inanimate: Miodownik achieves precisely what he sets out to The Times The Master of Materials strikes again. Professor Miodownik has a gift for exciting us with his unique combination of the science and the sensuality of the stuff that the world around is made from -- Thomas Heatherwick, designer of the Olympic Flame Written with such informed and infectious zeal ... Stuff Matters doesn't just reveal the hidden and amazing structures behind much of what our world is made of, it tells the hidden and fascinating stories too -- Quentin Cooper, BBC Radio 4 Stuff Matters has reminded me that historians can spend too much time looking at what people have said and written, and not enough on the materials with which we have built modern society. I now understand why epochs in human history are defined by the stuff we have used -- Dan Snow An ode to material science. Miodownik delves into the molecules and history of metal, paper, concrete and chocolate, finding poetry and beauty in the details. It's also about the ingenuity of humankind, the unique ability of humans to understand the materials around us, and to manipulate them -- Alice Roberts

About the Author

Mark Miodownik is Professor of Materials and Society at UCL, scientist-in-residence on Dara O Briain's Science Club (BBC2) and presenter of several documentaries, including The Genius of Invention (BBC2). In 2010, he gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, broadcast on BBC4. He is Director of the UCL Institute of Making, which is home to a materials library containing some of the most wondrous matter on earth, and has collaborated to make interactive events with many museums, such as Tate Modern, the Hayward Gallery and Wellcome Collection.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (July 30, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670920541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670920549
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,083,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Edelman TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 2, 2014
Format: Paperback
Have you ever stared at a bowl of jello and wondered what it would look like if you took all the water out of it? Probably not, but in the 1930s a chemist by the nam,e of Samuel Kistler did, and he managed to do so by replacing the water in the gel with a pressurized gas. He called the resultant material an aerogel. Kistler went on to do this trick with a number of materials, including silicon dioxide, which is what glass is made from, and created a silicon aerogel- a rigid, open-celled foam that was 98 percent air. It was the lightest, most effective insulator yet discovered, and It was also fireproof. A solid gas, as one put it. A miracle material that should have been revolutionary.

Kistler patented his aerogels and licensed them to Monsanto, and the world pretty much ignored them. No one needed an expensive ultra-light, low density material in the 1930s. It wasn't until the 1980s that aerogels were rediscovered by NASA, who found them an idea product not only for insulating spacecraft, but for collecting samples in outer space.

This sort of story fascinate author and materials scientist Mark Miodownik, and he has collected several stories about the artificial materials that shape our world. Some are as simple (and yet world-changing) as paper, glass, and concrete. Others, like graphene, are at the frontiers of research. Some materials are used to make buildings, and some are used to create artificial bones and organs.

Miodownik is a man possessed of infinite curiosity and the ability to be fascinated by the smallest details- qualities that no doubt served him well in his professional life, and that serve him well here, as he does a very good job of explaining to the lay reader exactly why some paper is smooth and glossy, why spoons don't have their own flavor, or how clay can be turned into fine porcelain. He is also possessed of a fine sense of humor that makes this even more of a pleasure to read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Clark on March 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Who knew you could burn a diamond? Or that it would turn into graphite? Traverses history, molecular construction and society in its survey of everyday items. The real bonuses when you come across chapters that pose questions you'd never contemplated before. What chemical process turns concrete from a liquid to hard rock? How come chocolate melts in your mouth? Perhaps some better illustrations or photos could have enhanced the presentation but ... I wanted more.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Steffi Stone on November 24, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is written so that the average person can understand the history and evolution
of many of the products we use and enjoy every day like iron and steel, concrete, paper, ceramics, chocolate, etc. It is written in an entertaining and personal style that anyone can enjoy while learning a lot. Mark Miodownik is a well known Professor of Materials and Society at UCL but is able to make this book fun to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tim Morris on August 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I liked the personalized stories that introduced each material type. The scientific explanations were well explained and easy to grasp.

Recommend to anyone wanting to scratch below the surface of the 'stuff' we live with.
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By Audiobook Bandit on March 10, 2015
Format: Paperback
In this short book, author Miodownik explores the nature and history of various materials, including steel, paper, concrete, chocolate, aerogel, plastic, glass, carbon, porcelain, and titanium. At first blush, it’s hard to imagine how a book like this can work; its short length and layperson audience means that it cannot hope to be a very technical introduction, while the cherry-picked list of materials that it explores is at once incomplete and dauntingly diverse. But the book *does* succeed, because Miodownik keeps it both fun and interesting. The history is fascinating, and is presented with clarity, humor and enough technical detail to teach a few lessons about materials ranging from the mundane to the exotic. Of course, one of the lessons is that there is really no such thing as a “mundane” material, and I – for one – was fascinated to learn that there are six different kinds of chocolate crystals. The book isn’t perfect: I did not enjoy the chapter on paper, which provides only cursory descriptions of various forms of the stuff. Nor did I really enjoy the chapter on plastics, which the author decided to write in the form of a tongue-in-cheek screenplay. But these are minor issues; as a whole, the book is an easy, enjoyable, and interesting read, and I recommend it.
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This is, without a doubt, the most interesting, relevant, informative and enjoyable book I have read in years. The author grabs the reader's attention and makes them hunger for a greater understanding of the material "stuff" that populates our daily lives. I strongly recommend this book.

I especially recommend it for high school and college students who are trying to decide whether a career in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) is right for them. If they have any curiosity at all, they will gobble this book up. If only all scientists and engineers could write this well!
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Fascinating read, at times very personal. Dr. Miodownik has a way of weaving a variety of information coming from sometimes surprising sources, in a throughly readable, witty, and often humorous way. Great science writing! Recommended - no wonder it wan the award.
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Delightfully witty yet complete explanations for the "stuff" that makes up the materials that surround us. Gets down inside the fascinating molecular make-up of every day things. Understandable to everyday people.
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