“Marvellous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World”

Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik

What would we do without man-made materials?  We can’t live without them these days.

Mark Miodownik, whom some of you may recognise from his regular TV appearances on Dara O’Briain’s Science Club on BBC2, wants to tells us all about the things our man-made world is shaped from. Mark, like me (!), is a materials scientist. Unlike me, he’s a practising one, being a Professor of the subject at UCL in London.  In his book, published last year, now available in paperback with this gorgeous cover, he wants to persuade us that ‘Stuff Matters’.

In the introduction, he explains to us where his fascination with materials came from and it’s a grim start. As a teenager, he was badly slashed with a super-sharp razor-blade by a mugger on the London underground, and couldn’t believe that a small blade could cut through five layers of clothing and so deeply through the skin of his back as he escaped.

In the following chapters, he takes us through the development of some of the fundamental materials in our lives like steel, paper and concrete; materials that help us as we age, entertain us at leisure; also some of the most interesting new ones like aerogel and nanotechnology.

He’s great at explaining complex subjects making things like how the faults in the crystal structure of metal alloys are what helps to make it strong seem straight forward, (although at uni-level I remember struggling with atomic planes and dislocations at first) and that’s no mean feat. This is a wonderful tour around the world of materials science, it’s entertaining, full of facts, and easy to read. Mark makes for good company on the page and I heartily recommend it. (9/10)

I shall leave you with a clip of the rather fab front cover being assembled.

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Source: Own copy.  To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:

Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World by Mark Miodownik, pub Penguin 2013, paperback 272 pages.

If you found Stuff Matters fascinating, you might be interested in the book below. The second edition, published in 1976, is still in print and still used today. It was the one book I was told I had to read before going up to university, and it was fascinating.

The New Science of Strong Materials: Or Why You Don’t Fall Through the Floor (Penguin Science) by J.E.Gordon, pub Penguin, paperback.

12 thoughts on ““Marvellous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World”

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    What fun! Yes, please count me in! As for materials – well, paper is the obvious one because I couldn’t read without it (I don’t count non-tree books as real!). However, one of the things we couldn’t live without is fabrics (or else we would freeze and embarrass our friends) so maybe they would be a favourite!

  2. Claire D says:

    This would be great for the science department library! We look at all kinds of materials in our practicals – hard to pick a favourite, but the experiment to see which insulator keeps the ‘teacher’s tea’ warm is fun!

  3. Spade and Dagger says:

    Personally I have a love-hate relationship with the ever present Lycra. It keeps your clothes in shape, but has a horrible habit of making them cling to every lump & bump that is best left hidden.

  4. toomasnipernaadi says:

    Does it mean that you would prefer that people who are not residents of UK should not read and comment on your blog?

    I am sorry, I was finding it interesting and did not know it is for residents of UK only. I did not know I was not welcome as long as I am not in UK.

    • Annabel (gaskella) says:

      You misunderstand! I welcome readers from everywhere – always have done, always will do. 🙂

      The giveaway is thanks to the generosity of the publisher, and is limited to sending in the UK. Postage costs to countries outside the UK are a big expense. Sorry.

  5. Dark Puss says:

    I’d like to be entered into the draw. Historically anything like flax/cotton/wool surely would be a favourite and where would we have got in communications without the amazing material that is paper. However I’m going to nominate quartz (silicon dioxide) or stricly a mixture of mainly quartz and other metal oxides without which we would not have ultra-high bandwith electronic communications carried by ultra-fast laser pulses over hair-thin optical fibres.

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