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Why Things Break: Understanding the World By the Way It Comes Apart
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Why Things Break: Understanding the World By the Way It Comes Apart

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  190 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Did you know—

• It took more than an iceberg to sink the Titanic.
• The Challenger disaster was predicted.
• Unbreakable glass dinnerware had its origin in railroad lanterns.
• A football team cannot lose momentum.
• Mercury thermometers are prohibited on airplanes for a crucial reason.
• Kryptonite bicycle locks are easily broken.

“Things fall apart” is more than a poetic insig
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Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 28th 2004 by Broadway Books (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 558)
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David

This is – hands down – the most atrocious book I’ve read so far this year, and probably within the last three years. I’m sure the author is technically competent in his field, whatever it is, but his reasons for writing this particular book are a complete mystery. I suspect he believes he has written something that is accessible to the general reader. To the contrary, this book is an incomprehensible, indigestible mess, in which all he does is manage to display his singular pedagogical ineptness
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Patrick
Feb 29, 2008 Patrick rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: David, Michael, Diana, Meri
This is one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time.

It is definitely a science book (specifically, it is about "fracture mechanics" according to the Library of Congress cataloging data and about "molecular physics" according to the ISBN box on the back cover). However, if all of the science books and classes I took in high school presented their information like the author does in this book, I would have found those subjects a lot more interesting.

I will be re-reading this agai
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Bill Mutch
Here's a book that lands happily in the huge gap between 'Dick & Jane Science,' and totally technical review of a field aimed at professionals. There used to be considerable market for science non-fiction aimed at reasonably well educated, reasonably intelligent lay people who simply want to be better informed about current understanding of the world in science. I like to think of myself that way, and consequently enjoyed this narrative of one scientists journey from curious child, then und ...more
Terry
Quite simply I never thought I'd describe a book on material science as "gripping". The first 150 pages are simply a compendium of amazing facts ranging from when airplanes break to history from the viewpoint of materials science to how resilient Radio-isotope Thermoelectric Generators are.

Very early, the author grabs your attention by differentiating between asking "when" things break and "why" things break. This question is captivating as he runs through why the area of research was ignored fo
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Grant
Nice basic review of fracture, absorption and embrittlement with somewhat entertaining stories. And somewhat hilarious how he indirectly mentions his pitfalls and how they lead to failures.

However the last few chapters on charge density doesn't really help at all. To me it was like his search was just comparing fingerprints and saying this material was stronger because it fit into the category 1 of prints rather than providing a true explanation of why. Yes, he did combine it with chemical bondi
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Forrest
A friend recommended this book, so I bought it and gave it a read.

It's a fast read, and the topic is fracture. The author is a professor at Colorado School of Mines, and the book is a summation of his career as well as his field of study.

The apparent upshot of it all is that the concept of materials "DESIGN", meaning the intentional creation of materials (mostly metals) with specific properties has been a Holy Grail of metallurgists for a long time, and he explores why this has been complicated
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Punk
Non-fiction. This is one of those science books that purports to be written for the common reader, full of easy to understand physics and a catchy cover that doesn't look anything like a textbook. They were half right. The author obviously loves talking about materials science and why things break, and he has a certain geeky sense of humor about it too, but I phased in and out of this book like a hologram on the blink. One moment things would make perfect sense, and the next I found myself cross ...more
Laura
I really liked this book! I guess I hadn't really thought about why ceramics are hard or what exactly makes them ceramics, nor the different ways the steel can be tempered and what was so neat about how the samurais would harden their blades. I am interested in the topic because of what it might show me about the non-reducibility of some properties in higher-level sciences. The explanations that material scientists give for the strength or viscosity of materials often apply to large classes of m ...more
Jerry Smith
eberhart is an entertaining writer and does his best to make a highly complex situation clear to the layman. I think he just about succeeds and some of the examples are very illustrative.

I once heard a quotation that went along the lines of: "if you understand Quantum Theory you don't understand it" and that was appropriate here on occasion. When he gets into discussing entropy and examples of the lawsof thermodynamics I was holding on by my fingernails!

As I say it is interesting stuff but for
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Navid
تحلیل شکستن اشیا بر مبنای علمی و فلسفی ! واقعا نگارش کتاب بی نظیره !
استاد عزیزم دکتر محمد ابراهیم محجوب ترجمه ی فوق العاده و سلیسی رو انجام دادن
Brian
Pretty fun book for science nerds and people that like science. I felt it was written well enough to reach a wide audience.
MD
This book explains why different materials break (or bend or stretch, etc.) under different circumstances. It tells why the Titanic sank (contaminated steel that broke when it should have bent), how to break a Kryptonite lock, why Corelle dishes resist breaking, how safety glass works, etc. It also gives some history of associated research.

Dr. Eberhart is a professor of chemistry and the explanations involve pretty heavy-duty chemistry at times, but not always. I struggled here and there, but en
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John
Supposedly a study about the recent discoveries concerning why materials break, this book is actually 50% about the author's personal and professional life (consisting mostly of academic slights he has suffered), 3/8 about lawsuits and society's changing attitude to broken things, and 1/8 about why things actually break. If you had a material science course in college you know the technology stuff already, and if you didn't there have got to be better places to find out about it than this book. ...more
Britt
This book is amazing. My background is in software and bioinformatics, so I know very little about materials engineering and was interested to learn more. The author writes very clearly and with sufficient detail that I never felt like I was left still wondering. Since this book I've picked up a couple other materials/building type books 'Why Buildings Fall Down' by Matthys Levy and 'To Engineer is Human' by Henry Petroski and while entertaining had neither the depth or captivating style that I ...more
Ari
Part biography, part description of fracture mechanics, and part social comment, this book is a bit hard to categorize. I enjoyed it, but others might find it a bit rambly. I thought the technical material was well handled. I learned things from it, but never felt like I needed my formal coursework in order to do so.

I had another, more personal, interest in this book. In part, it's a chronicle of the academic career of a successful scientist who isn't an academic rockstar. So it's nice to see w
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Mark
The author is snarky and somewhat self-important, but his way of looking at the world as a collection of almost infinitely rearrangeable constructs is engaging and works especially well metaphorically as a description of the mental world, in which ideas are constantly breaking along previously invisible fault lines and reconfiguring themselves into shapes that would have been difficult to predict in advance. Fun.
Dani
The beginning of this book grabbed my interest, unfortunately the end of the book did not. I felt the end of the book strayed away from the them off this book - why things break to what is wrong with research or more what is wrong with research in the US. Although I agree with many of the writers points since my job supports many research efforts,I feel it would have been better to keep with the theme of the book.
Colette
Entropy. Embrittlement. If you are looking for a reason why the Titanic or the Challenger failed, look no further. Understanding what makes things break is perhaps just as important as what makes things work. Although I have never taken so much as high school chemistry class, I found this book very easy to read. His analogies are easy to picture and understand.
Allison
What I learned from this book? Some physics and materials science. Tension and compression. Thermal shock. If only someone had made my science/physics textbook practical and entertaining in 12th grade... I might not have transfered to choir. Instead I pick up physics 20 yrs later, and enjoy learning about it from nutjobs like this guy. A fun read.
Kevin
A bit more geeky and down in the weeds than I expected. (Electron-clouds deep...)
At least I now know why you're not allowed to take a mercury thermometer on an aeroplane. And it's not because its vapour is poisonous. And why the Titanic fell apart...
Easy enough read, but it's not as macro-level as some readers may expect.
Daniel Widrew
Some good science and some bad science. Some effective explanations and some incoherent explanations. All framed by a boring narrative of the author's career course. A relatively lame pop science book, but 3 stars for it giving me some good insight into things I hadn't understood and/or considered before.
Doug
Too much about the author's personal work and not enough general theory or real-world applications (in a book about fracture and failure there shoulda been some of that), although if you are a chemistry/science nerd there are some cool nuggets in here...
Nica  Noelle
One of my favorite books. Great for promoting big picture thinking and applying these principles to every aspect of life -- how to keep things from breaking, or in the alternative, how to break them in the most elegant fashion.
Joshua
interesting look at how chemistry underlays so much of what is taken for granted in the world. the personal anecdotes and digressions are amusing and ultimately relevant to the discussion.
Capper
Not too technical review of some of the principles of material science. Written as a first hand account of the author's career. Kind of a big ego.
Cole
Would have been a much better long article.
Great information presented awkwardly.
Though, I did buy his next book even with this two star review.
Gwyddion
An interesting read on theoretical quantum chemistry and the scientific process. Well written, although not always well organized.
Sourena Kazemi
خیلی جالب بود و تونست یه دید جدید در باره شکست اجسام بهم بده
اما بعضی جاهاش دیگه واقعا خسته کننده شده بود . . .
Peter
Interesting and entertaining, but didn't really learn much. A number of "why things break" examples.
Ellen
I was looking for a science book, not a memoir of the author's very banal academic life. DNF.
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“I do not often get involved in litigation, largely because it is often simply impossible to conclude with scientific certainty what caused something to break. The fact that almost every case involves opposing experts just serves to confirm this difficulty.” 0 likes
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