I have a great love of unusual facts. Like most people who enjoy trivia I also live to bring it up randomly in conversation. So, Mark Miodownik’s book Stuff Matters, about the origin, history, and possible future use of everyday things is an ideal book for me to gather tidbits to later regurgitate.
As a materials profession Miodownik is well versed in the subject and understands how to communicate the information in a consumable manner. His writing style is beautiful but easy to comprehend. And, I appreciated that the explanations of the chemical makeup was understandable even when it veered into the anatomical explanation of materials. More importantly, Miodownik clearly loves materials and enthusiastically shares their uniqueness.
In each of the eleven chapters, Miodownik covers eleven different materials that make up ordinary items. Some chapters have an anectode or a personal pondering that introduces the material. All the chapters give the history, original uses, modern application and possible future form of the material. Whether he was talking about china, concrete, titanium, or paper I was riveted.
The only chapter I struggled with was the one on plastic. Here, Miodownik tells the story of a plastic candy wrapper at the movie showing of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He found himself in an argument regarding the appropriateness of plastic at the movie theatre. The information and delivery of the information would have been superb but he used Butch Cassidy’s storyline to deliver it. This meant that the delicious clipped British accent of narrator Michael Page took on the drawl of a movie cowboy. Also, I have never seen Butch Cassidy so many parrellels made to the story were meaningless for me. Still, I learned much about plastics and this chapter was not bad, at all, just the only less than perfect one of the eleven.
Mark Miodownik has been fascinated by materials his whole life. He ponders them in a way I would never have before listening to his book. But now, when I hold my china teacup, you can be sure I will be telling anyone around me about its origins in China and the humble lifecycle of its cousin, the mug. Oh thank you Stuff Matters for the wealth of ridiculous information I now have at my fingertips.
Tell me, please!
Do you wonder about the materials in everyday objects?