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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sound stuff
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...
Published 15 months ago by Brian Clegg

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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tenuous links and structure start to grate after a while
I gave the book the benefit of the doubt after reading some other amazon reviews, but I have to say that I agree with those that criticise the narrative framework;

The author uses a picture of a roof terrace as a device to illustrate a range of materials, each one of which then forms the basis of a chapter on that material.

It feels a little gimmicky...
Published 12 months ago by Matt


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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sound stuff, 9 Jun 2013
By 
Brian Clegg "Brian Clegg" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World (Hardcover)
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 to geology on that spectrum. But Mark Miodownik has managed the near-impossible and made it a deeply enjoyable read.

I thought things were going to be a bit dire when he starts with the story of how he was attacked as a teen with a razor blade on the London Underground and developed a fascination with the nature of metal, an opinion that wasn't helped by the rather self-indulgent approach of basing the book around a photograph of the author sitting on his roof terrace. But very soon the superb storytelling took over and we were into the fascinating world of Bessemer and the making of steel. In fact so well are the stories told throughout the book that the author's photograph of himself becomes an old friend and interesting as a focus. It really works.

The book has ten sections, covering metals, paper, concrete, chocolate, foam (particularly aerogel), plastic, glass, graphite, porcelain and rather bizarrely `implant' covering both bones and artificial items in the body like screws. These are all delightful excursions into the subjects with plenty of diversions along the way.

Two of the sections, paper and plastic, are weaker than the other because Miodownik decided to try a different format for the chapter. Paper has very little content (which is perhaps why he used this approach), consisting primarily of two page spreads describing different types of paper which gets a little repetitive. Plastic is done in the form of a film script (to reflect the importance of plastic film to moving pictures), but this seemed rather strained. Miodownik is also loose with the facts in stating that `the biggest diamond yet discovered... is an entire planet five times the Earth.' That's not science. All we know is that a star's variation suggests a companion that has the right sort of density to possibly be mostly diamond. However these blips don't damage the book's integrity.

Overall a delightful book on a subject that is relatively rarely written about - you could say the cinderella of the sciences. You will discover facts you didn't know, how basic but important elements of our lives like cement or chocolate work at the structural level - and along the way will enjoy some excellent storytelling. Recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making materials interesting, 20 July 2013
By 
M. D. Holley (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World (Hardcover)
This is an absolute joy to read from first to last, and is full of fascinating facts about materials science.

It is very thought provoking too, for example:

- how sharp is the division between living and non living matter?;
- should history be rewritten to take more account of materials?;
- has the relationship between humans, and the materials they use, been understated?
- will new materials science create unimagined futures for humankind?

Several examples are given of old fashioned materials staying in use despite the advantages of more modern materials. It got me pondering over the future of e books...

Although this is a book about science, Mark Miodownik retains a very human side throughout. He constantly stresses the human response to materials, to their sensuous properties. And he makes each chapter interesting though the human touch. A good example is the chapter on porcelain, introduced by a lovely little story of his own parents' wedding day, the bone china tea set they were given as a present, and the tea cup that fell of the floor without breaking on that first day.

I loved the chapter on concrete and the construction of the Shard!

The author was limited by the size of his book to only ten types of material. I do hope he writes a second instalment - there is surely a lot more he can teach us.

Thoroughly recommended
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple Science, 9 Aug 2013
This review is from: Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World (Hardcover)
A scientist who writes so ordinary mortals can understand & much of the subjects were completely unknown to me before - I'll be reading it again very shortly
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!, 12 July 2013
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This review is from: Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World (Hardcover)
A fascinating read that has encouraged me to rethink a lot. I genuinely walked around looking at some things a little differently just after I finished. I suspect someone more academic than me could gain more from this book, nevertheless I found more than enough in it to interest me, and I feel sure I will gain more each time I re-read it. Thanks Mark :o)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stuff Matters, 27 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World (Hardcover)
This is a very interesting book and I have enjoyed reading it. It makes you appreciate the everyday things around you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for nerds, 8 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World (Hardcover)
Absolutely excellent. Reveals the magic, the complexity and sometimes amazing history of materials that we take for granted in our everday lives. It also raises the question as to how some of the absolutely non-intuitive developments of stuff like glass and porcelain ever happed simply through random experimentation in the days when the physical and chemical properties of materials were hardly known.
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5.0 out of 5 stars and appreciate the miracles that have made our life so comfortable and expanded it so much, 5 Aug 2014
By 
Mr. P. Skeldon (sohar, oman) - See all my reviews
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There is a scene in Clayhanger when the hero and his school friend pause on a bridge to overlook the Five Towns, and Arnold Bennett comments on their ignorance of the industry that underpins their lives. This rang bells with me as I was born in the Black Country, but my school taught me little or nothing about the industries where my father and uncles worked. This is a book for all those whose education was similarly lacking. It is a fascinating story told with clarity and humour. Read it and deepen your understanding of the science and technology that make our world, and appreciate the miracles that have made our life so comfortable and expanded it so much.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A work of wit and genius.i was captivated., 16 Sep 2014
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John P. Keating "dadski" (lancs uk) - See all my reviews
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Hugely Witty,informative,brilliant! I bought this after watching prof. Miodownik on the the BBC. He is gifted as a scientific/engineering/philosophical presenter and writer. Remarkable how he takes such everyday objects say paper or concrete and rightly imbues they with almost mystical magical properties. Golly this man can teach from a most lofty scientific pinanacle but make it truly accessible. I've recently retired after a long and wonderful career as an English teacher. Had I met a "Miodownik " 50 years ago I'm sure I'd be retired from teaching science! But then there are few like this fellow. Buy it!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great book, 29 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World (Hardcover)
This book gives us both the history and the science surrounding 10 substances we nowadays exploit in our daily lives - or in some cases at the edge of science. Steel, paper, chocolate, aerogels, plastic, glass, and bodily implants (hip replacements and so on) in turn come under the microscope. The final chapter, attempting to bring together some themes, for me was the weakest spot - I did not find it that memorable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Don't pass this book up;buy it., 21 July 2014
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If you like popular science "stuff" as I do, this book ticks all the boxes. Martin Modownk has a lovely turn of phrase whilst explaining the various materials he brings under discussion. I have recommended this book to many of my friends who are interested in the science in question. It was an eye opener for me..
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