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

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  15,506 ratings  ·  1,666 reviews
An 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 a globally-renowned materials scientist has spent his life exp ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 27th 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published June 6th 2013)
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 ·  15,506 ratings  ·  1,666 reviews

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Petra X has an invite to NJ 13th July
There were many interesting materials described in the book. The most fascinating by far was Aerogel But the most immediately interesting was chocolate. I hadn't realised it was such a technical marvel. Chocolate was a nasty, fatty, gritty bitter drink for the Incas (view spoiler) but through technology has now been transformed into the almost orgasmic pleasure it is today.

When the author was young he would have to bathe after his two older brothers, s
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
B Schrodinger
May 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, chemistry
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
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
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
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.


BLACKADDER: That I cannot say, Sir. I am one of those people who is quite happy to wear cotton but have
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
"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
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.
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
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.
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
aPriL does feral sometimes
Mark Miodownik, author of 'Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World', writes in a conversational style about materials, using history, personal anecdotes and concise science facts to explain what the everyday stuff we use to eat, sit on, read and work in is made of. Despite the easygoing explanations, he is a man who knows 'stuff'. Miodownik is a professor at University College in London, which has an extensive materials library.

He has logically organized by
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
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
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
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.
Rajat Ubhaykar
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, favorites
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! ...more
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.
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
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
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)
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
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Helen-joe Owens

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
Sujith Ravindran
Dec 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
All materials enthusiasts should try reading this book. The book describes 10 materials which are commonly seen around us in an extremely fun-filled and eloquent way.

"The materials themselves are often surprisingly obscure, despite being all around us".

Don't worry there are no phase diagrams. But, there is sufficient technical content so as to generate curiosity in these materials. I personally liked the chapter on aerogels since I too worked on highly porous silica tiles and these are amazing
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
Sep 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
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
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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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“In a very real way, then, materials are a reflection of who we are, a multi-scale expression of our human need and desires.” 12 likes
“It is often said that there are very few places left on earth that have yet to be discovered. But those who say this are usually referring to places that exist at the human scale. Take a magnifying glass to any part of your house and you will find a whole new world to explore. Use a powerful microscope and you will find another, complete with a zoo of living organisms of the most fantastic nature. Alternatively, use a telescope and a whole universe of possibilities will open up before you.” 10 likes
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