Review: “Stuff Matters” by Mark Miodownik

Thumbs up for Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik. Science.

Once I picked this book up, I couldn’t put it down. There’s no guarantee that a scientist passionately obsessed with their subject will be able to convey the beauty of the topic to a lay audience. Miodownik succeeds with ease. In chapters focused around everything from concrete to aerogel, chocolate to porcelain, he touches upon every level of the material, from the Why (does it act like it does) to the How (do we make it) to the What (do we use it for). I already had some interest in and knowledge of material science–it’s necessary for fantasy worldbuilding–but there was lots here I didn’t know. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to drink from a teacup labelled “bone china” in the same way again.

Brearly made no progress [in finding harder steel alloys for WWI gun barrels]. If a new specimen turned out not to be hard, he chucked it in the corner. His moment of genius came when after a month he walked through the lab and saw a bright glimmer in the pile of rusting specimens. Rather than ignoring it and going to the pub, he fished out this one specimen that had not rusted and realized its significance: he was holding the first piece of stainless steel the world had ever known.


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