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Stuff Matters

Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World

By Mark Miodownik
9-minute read
Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik

Stuff Matters (2013) is an adventure into the seemingly humdrum stuff we encounter daily. Materials scientist Mark Miodownik delves into the true makeup of modern materials, and invites you to look at your surrounding world through new eyes.

  • Anyone who wants to see the world from a completely new perspective
  • Anyone interested in what makes up the everyday objects around us

Mark Miodownik is a professor of materials and society at University College London, where he also works as the director of the Institute of Making – home to a library containing some of the rarest materials on Earth. He won the 2014 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books for Stuff Matters, and he’s been invited to give the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures.

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Stuff Matters

Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World

By Mark Miodownik
  • Read in 9 minutes
  • Contains 5 key ideas
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Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik
Synopsis

Stuff Matters (2013) is an adventure into the seemingly humdrum stuff we encounter daily. Materials scientist Mark Miodownik delves into the true makeup of modern materials, and invites you to look at your surrounding world through new eyes.

Key idea 1 of 5

What are everyday objects made of? Depends on the scale at which you study them.

From the pencils we write with to the steel utensils we use to eat, every day we encounter countless man-made items. But what are these objects actually made of? In fact, the answer depends on the scale at which you’re examining the object in.

At first glance, they may seem like monolithic, single-piece units, but look a little closer and you’ll find that the material is usually made up of an intricate arrangement of smaller parts that interlock perfectly. A sweater is made of tightly woven threads, for example. And if you examine those smaller parts more closely, you’ll find that they too are made up of even smaller parts, much like a Russian nesting doll.

Unfortunately, the naked eye cannot reveal more about your sweater, but a powerful microscope would show the individual fibers that make up these threads. Looking even deeper, you’d see that the fibers consist of hundreds of thousands of molecules, and, finally, atoms.

These molecular and atomic levels of detail are important, because changes there can have a profound effect.

For example, consider that though they look completely different, both diamonds and the graphite found in pencils are made up of carbon. The difference in appearance arises from the fact that on a molecular level, the carbon atoms are arranged differently in each material: graphite contains atoms arranged in sheets, whereas in diamonds they are in a cubic structure.

So, as far as materials are concerned, remember that there’s much more to them than meets the eye.

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