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Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  13,722 ratings  ·  1,479 reviews
A New York Times Bestseller

An eye-opening adventure deep inside the everyday materials that surround us, packed with surprising stories and fascinating science

Why is glass see-through? What makes elastic stretchy? Why does a paper clip bend? Why does any material look and behave the way it does? These are the sorts of questions that Mark Miodownik is constantly asking him
...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 27th 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published June 6th 2013)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  13,722 ratings  ·  1,479 reviews


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Mario the lone bookwolf
Material science can be fascinating, awe-inspiring, and motivate to a completely new look at everyday things and the world around us in general.

See, I am a curious little critter, but for a long time, many too specific fields were unreachable, because there was nothing on the market that could help a layman understand such complex fields as chemistry and all that engineering around how things are made. But finally, the rise of entertaining, hard fun, edutainment has begun.

The chapters are more
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B Schrodinger
May 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: chemistry, science
Materials science, although being closely related to chemistry, can be enough to send even most scientists to sleep. Endless talks of the differing types of ceramics, stress versus strain...zzz.

But have no fear because Mark is here. And Mark makes materials science sexy.

Stuff Matters brings to life the man-made world around us. Suddenly steel, concrete and paper are fascinating when presented in an intelligent, funny and whimsical way. Materials science textbooks seem to be a collection of phase
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Jenna
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jenna by: Dan Connors
Shelves: science, non-fiction
Element Atom GIF - Element Atom Orbit GIFs

So here you are, sitting on your couch or lying in bed, sipping some tea and reading this review. Imagine that an alien life form suddenly appears, armed with a high tech material-deteriorating gun that is programmed to destroy every man-made material in sight (yeh, I know that's unlikely but just imagine it anyway), aims it at you, and POOF! You are now sitting naked, suspended in mid air, your tablet/laptop gone, your cup of tea gone, the glasses that allow you to read have disappeared. You no
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Ian
Reading this book brought to my mind a scene from the 1980s British TV comedy “Blackadder III”, set during the Regency. In the scene in question, Blackadder and the Prince Regent discuss a northern industrialist who is visiting London:

BLACKADDER: He has patented a machine called the Ravelling Nancy.

THE PRINCE REGENT: What does it do?

BLACKADDER: It ravels cotton, Sir.

THE PRINCE REGENT: What for?

BLACKADDER: That I cannot say, Sir. I am one of those people who is quite happy to wear cotton but have
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Jennifer
Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World is a nonfiction science book written by materials engineer: Mark Miodownik. I first heard of Stuff Matters after scanning a random list of 2014’s best audiobooks. Figuring I would get a head-start on my 2015 resolution to read more nonfiction, I figured why not? I loved this book! It was absolutely fascinating. Yes, I knew I enjoyed science before reading this book. I took many science-based courses as my “extras” in ...more
Jen
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Picture this:

You’re in a lovely antique shop and you’ve just profaned against every law of kinesthetic awareness by tripping over your own feet. You’re committed now. Committed to one of those falls that seems to turn you into a temporal torpedo. You know the ones: You pitch forward, arms outstretched, sometimes windmilling, angled in just such a way that the clumsy aerodynamic qualities of your forehead masticate the surrounding space-time like a Brontosaurus chewing a tough steak, making your
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David Quinn
This book has forced me to face the reality that I dislike panoramic popular science so adjust your own expectations accordingly.

This is what he had to say about paper:

“What is it about paper that allows words to be expressed that might otherwise be kept secret? They are written in a private moment, and as such, paper lends itself to sensual love - the act of writing being one of touch, of flow, of flourish, of sweet asides and little sketches, an individuality that is free from the mechanics of
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HBalikov
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yes, it took me almost two years to read this book and I am glad that I didn't rush through it.

I am a layperson when it comes to materials science and engineering. That, in some measure, makes me grateful for the person who can explain, using my vocabulary, those concepts and relationships that underlie his professional focus. Miodownik is one of the best I have ever come across, and it is clear that he enjoys talking about it with people like me. "This book is for those who want to decipher th
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Alina
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
"What is it about paper that allows words to be expressed that might otherwise be kept secret? They are written in a private moment, and as such, paper lends itself to sensual love—the act of writing being one fundamentally of touch, of flow, of flourish, of sweet asides and little sketches, an individuality that is free from the mechanics of a keyboard. The ink becomes a kind of blood that demands honesty and expression, it pours on to the page, allowing thoughts to flow."

“For, in the end, Brea
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Brian Clegg
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my head there is a spectrum of interestingness for science that runs from geology to the really weird bits of physics. I have never yet found a popular science writer, however good, who can make geology truly interesting, while something like quantum physics is so fascinating (and strange) that it takes little effort to make it fascinating (though it’s hard to make it comprehensible). Materials science – what I call ‘how stuff works’ when talking to junior school children generally sits near ...more
Peter Tillman
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-tech
Good book, cool but a little skimpy. Not quite up to the hype. 3.5 stars, rounded up. Read 6-2014.
Paul
Almost everything we touch has had some form of human interaction to change it from one form to another. Some of these interactions are simple, involving the changing of the shape and form, others are much more complex and involve heat and chemical interaction. Using a photo of himself drinking a coffee and eating a bar of chocolate, Miodownik takes us through a range of different materials that you are likely to come across every day, such as glass, steel, plastics, concrete, paper and even cho ...more
David
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to David by: Peter Mcloughlin
This is an entertaining, engaging book about many of the everyday--and rare--materials that are in our world. Some of the materials occur naturally like diamond and coal. But the majority of materials discussed in the book are man-made, and Mlodownik makes them all sound fascinating! He describes steel, plastic, chocolate, glass, ceramics, silicon chips, graphene, elastic, graphite, paper, concrete, silverware and porcelain. And even though most of these materials seem so mundane, Miodownik has ...more
Jacob
Aug 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Are you one of those people who once excitedly sat down to watch "How it's Made" only to be utterly disappointed by the fact that it's basically just a bunch of B-reel of machines doing everything and no narrated exploration as to what chemicals are used along with the whys and hows that allowed them to settle on their usage to begin with?

Well, my strange kin, that is what this book is. It is the whys, wheres, and whens of a some of the most common place items and objects with enough tangential
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Cherie
May 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Well written, just sciency enough to keep me interested without going overboard on the science.
I learned something in each of the topics covered.

My favorite sections were on chocolate and carbon. The one I learned the most from was on glass, and the one I liked least was on cement. My geek self is happy to have been recommended this book and for finally reading it.
Ankit Goyal

"We inhabit an immaterial world, too: the world of our minds, our emotions, and our perceptions. But the material world, although separate, is not entirely divorced from these worlds—it strongly influences them, as anyone knows."



Brilliant , well written , humorous , wide encompassing! Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik covers all the bases in a fast paced , engaging and humorous style which actually even includes a screenplay penned b
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TS Chan
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who would have thought a book on material science can be so fascinating? I loved how the author brought in his personal perspective and stories into the narrative. Materials, such as steel, paper, concrete, glass and chocolate (to name a few covered in this book), do affect each and every one of us on a personal level; although we tend to take most of it for granted given its normality in our quotidian lives. Also, far from being dry, the author has an expressive writing style which makes readin ...more
Rajat Ubhaykar
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, science
A fascinating (and fun) journey into the history and science behind the materials that make up much of our world today - steel, plastic, glass, concrete, chocolate, ceramics - 'stuff' that we usually take for granted. Having read this book, I don't think I will look at the material world in the same way again. Highly recommended!
Jacob McLaws
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Reread while in London August 2016.

"Quit telling me "interesting" things about cement and concrete!" -Shae

The kind of book that makes you wonder at the world again. This week I've caught myself holding grains of sand up close to my eye, gently stroking glass, trying to taste stainless steel, and staring at everyday concrete like I'm in the Louvre.
David
Apr 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-sci-med
“Why can you see through glass?” and “Why does paper fold neatly but not plastic wrap?” are the sort of questions that an arbitrary world believes are endearing when issuing from the mouth of some precocious moppet, but generate uncomfortable silences when voiced by a jowly middle-aged man, like self. It seems odd to me, especially when the questions above provide a much broader avenues for cheerful and interesting conversation than conversational gambits which I have observed are more frequent, ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Really enjoyed this book. I like an author who takes mundane everyday objects like stainless steel cutlery, the ubiquitous sea of paper products around us, graphite in pencils and WD-40, plastic and shows the history and science behind the making of these modern ordinary products. It is quite extraordinary the repertiore of substances that humans have invented from nature's building blocks. I only had a small set of legos as toys as a kid but the idea of building a wide variety of structures fro ...more
Farhana
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This is an interesting book. I have enjoyed it so much. The writer has been obsessed with material science since an early incidence of hijack where he was back stabbed by a sharp steel razor blade. Eventually he completed his PhD in material science from Oxford & is currently working in this field.

The book is so well written. The writer goes on describing the interesting facts, science & history of mainly 11 materials from the picture below in 11 different chapters with his attractive & sophisti
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Moonkiszt
Stuff DOES matter! Mark Miodownik starts with the basics, concrete, dirt, and it's a science slide! I loved this book and was scheming on the many ways I could get my peeps in the car on a road trip and slip this in on them. . . .they'd love it and learn cool stuff as well!

There were a couple of off-trail rides, inserting a playlet in the middle, but I get it - exploring new ways to "science." Mentioned often, the author is very attached to the Six Million Dollar Man (Steve Austin / Lee Majors)
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The Captain
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Ahoy there mateys! This book was freakin’ awesome! The first mate read this one and then told me I had to follow suit. Read this and ye will never look at billiard balls, jam, or an eating utensil in the same way ever again. The saddest part of this book is that it feels too short. I was completely mesmerized. I can’t really explain this one more than that because I can’t do it justice and I also can’t explain science phenomena well at all. But just trust me when I say this is a must read. Arrr! ...more
Lemar
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
This fussy Brit is a person who follows through, who engages his curiosity. When we speak, write and arguably think, we use words as our material. Words matter. In this book he chooses several ubiquitous materials that matter to all of us and inform our lives. His unique gift is that in examining their origin and molecular structure, he adds to the sublime presence of materials like concrete and chocolate rather than deconstructs their mystery.
Robert
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Helen-joe Owens
Wow!

First, thanks to Quest Scouts for introducing me to this book. I would have never read it had it not been an objective for the Prism & Light quest. In full disclosure, I tried to read this last summer and got nowhere. I had checked it out of the local library, but could not concentrate on the text. I read almost exclusively on the Kindle. Wanting to bang out this objective, I purchased the book.

The science presented here is in layman's terms. I appreciated that. I was able to follow all the
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Becky
This was a pretty interesting look at the make-up and origins and useage of the stuff we use and take for granted every day. I particularly found the chapters on steel and concrete to be interesting.

I didn't really love the layout or format of this book though, and found myself wishing that it was just more of a straightforward chapter on each material rather than the clever vignettes that he used. It's maybe a little unfair, since usually that would work for me, but I just didn't enjoy it here
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Matt
Sep 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, reviewed
There's definitely some questionable fact-telling here that made me at times wonder about the accuracy of other chapters: (e.g. "Dark chocolate usually contains 50% cocoa fat and 20% cocoa nut powder [referred to as '70% cocoa solids' on packaging]" is misleading at best, but doesn't go far enough in breaking down what the packaging copy means nor does it state a truth regarding the percentages in true dark chocolate). The only culinary book that Miodownik mentions in his recommended further rea ...more
Joyce
Oct 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book! The author is a materials scientist, and his goal is to help us understand how all of the materials we use in everyday life came to be. In a way, it's a paean to human creativity: how did people ever figure out the way to turn sand into glass? And not just glass, but many different types of glass for a variety of purposes?

Though Miodownik is a scientist, he writes for a general audience, and anyone who is at least moderately interested in science will enjoy this book
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Weronika Zimna
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-polish, nonfiction
4,5
Oh my god, yes! Finally a scientific book I enjoyed that much! I loved reading books like "Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze?: And 114 Other Questions" when I was a kiddo. I've been looking for something just as fun and interesting ever since. "What if" was fine and I will finish it at some point, but... well, I don't feel the need to rush. BUT THIS BOOK! So good! Informative and entertaining. Very well written. I have nothing to complain about.
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Mark Miodownik is Professor of Materials and Society at University College London and the Director of the UCL Institute of Making. He was chosen by The Times as one of the top 100 most influential scientists in the UK. Miodownik is a broadcaster known best for giving the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures broadcast on BBC4. Miodownik is also a writer on science and engineering issues, a presen ...more

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