21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
"The material world is not just a display of our technology and culture; it is part of us.",
This review is from: Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World (Hardcover)
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In 1985, a stranger stabbed a schoolboy named Mark Miodownik in the back with a razor blade, inflicting a stab wound measuring thirteen centimeters. What the victim took away from this experience, besides the pain and an unsightly scar, was a feeling of awe that such a small weapon, "not much bigger than a postage stamp," could penetrate five layers of clothing. "The birth of my obsession with materials," Miodownik states, began that day. Mark started to ask questions about what makes substances behave the way they do and he has never stopped looking for answers. He studied at Oxford, became an engineer, and is now a professor of materials science at University College London.
In his fact-filled and entertaining book, "Stuff Matters," Miodownik tells us about the history, composition, and benefits of specific materials, some of which are commonly used but not fully understood by the average individual. Miodownik provides intriguing information that will propel readers to look at a drinking glass, stainless steel spoon, chocolate bar, book, plastic bag, concrete building, diamond ring, and even a pencil with new eyes. From the Stone Age to the present, materials have defined periods of human existence. During the Victorian era, steel was king. Silicon defined the twentieth century and helped create the information revolution that makes our high-tech lives possible. Miodownik also discusses how we interact with materials at a physical and emotional level. Are the things that we build, ingest, and wear merely practical or do they appeal to one or more of our five senses? Medically, we rely on materials more than ever before. Anyone who has recently had a hip replacement, undergone reconstructive plastic surgery, or been fitted with a prosthetic body part has profited from the amazing substances and procedures developed by creative and highly skilled scientists and physicians.
Miodownik's style is accessible, informal, and humorous; his curiosity and enthusiasm are infectious. He includes his own drawings, lending the narrative a more personal touch. Non-scientists may not grasp the passages dealing with atoms, electrons, carbon bonds, and quantum mechanics; nor will they necessarily comprehend why substances behave differently, depending on their composition, age, as well as their exposure to light, pressure, and high or low temperatures. Still, even people who flunked physics and chemistry will realize that some of the things we take for granted are truly incredible. Professor Miodownik urges us to appreciate the beauty, diversity, utility, and sophistication of the materials that make our world a more hospitable and habitable place. In addition, he introduces us to such exotic items as astrogel and graphene, each of which possesses unique properties. Let us hope that researchers' efforts and ingenuity will be devoted not just to making our everyday lives more enjoyable and convenient, but also to preserving our planet for future generations.