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A Look at How Amazing Common Materials Can Be,
This review is from: Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World (Hardcover)
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Until recently I had never heard the words 'material science.' Sue I knew there were all kinds of amazing things done to make stuff in our lives, stronger, thinner, cheaper, better, and more energy efficient. But, being a child of the 60's I just figured this was 'better living through chemistry."
Boy was I wrong. And how wonderfully Miodownik has opened this world up in this delightful book. By taking ten ordinary materials you see in one picture, he constructs a marvelous world. Each chapter is named for a property of the material, and each begins from a very simple point. Some talk about the history of the material, others about its chemical structure, and others with a story from his life.
Using this as a starting point, he takes you deeper and deeper into this material and what makes it marvelous. For example I had no idea there were 5 or 6 different crystal structures for chocolate and why some of them make better candy than others. The book is full of these delightful bits of information.
Miodownik's style is a wonderful one for the layperson. Although he clearly knows so much more than he's telling you (and no doubt can say it much more technically), you always understand his terms, you don't fell burdened by too many formulas -- he always brings the discussion back to stuff we understand: paper money, movies, tea cups, stainless steel forks. What I love best is how his absolute delight in the materials of this world -- stuff -- comes through.
One very tiny warning:. Miodownik is British and uses British terms. Most of the time this isn't a problem, you'll know what he means, but once it tripped me up. In his chapter on foam, he talks about "jelly." To an American this is the stuff in jars that you spread on toast. He is not talking about that. He is talking about set gelatins, what in the US we call by the brand name Jell-o. If you figure this out, that chapter makes perfect sense. Thinking jelly as spreadable fruit juice makes the chapter very strange indeed.
It's a book that is at once an easily accessible introduction to materials science and an absolutely delightful personal set of reflections.