Literature: Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik

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Miodownik, Mark. Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials That Shape Our Man-made World. London: Penguin Books, 2014.


Mark Miodownik is a materials scientist and Director of the Institute of Making at the UCL — a very inspiring place with its rich Materials Library and MakerSpace. He writes a column in the Observer Newspaper and broadcasts a TV series entitled “Everyday Miracles: The Genius Of Sofas, Stockings And Scanners” on BBC. In his writing and broadcasting, Miodownik mostly focuses on the materials of our everyday environments and reveals where these materials come from, what their distinguishing features are, how they work, and more importantly, what they say about us.[1] “Why does a razor blade cut while a paper clip bends? Why are metals shiny? Why, for that matter, is glass transparent? Why does everyone seem to hate concrete but love diamond? And why is it that chocolate tastes so good? Why does any material look and behave the way it does?”[2]

Stuff Matters opens with an emphasis on the fundamental importance of materials to us, apparent from the names given to stages of civilization such as the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. “After all, everything is made of something…”[3] As a starting point for structuring his book on this subject of endless stuff, Miodownik uses a photo of him taken on the roof of his flat and picks ten materials found in that photo. Those particular materials are then used to shape the ten chapters of the book on steel, paper, concrete, chocolate, foam, plastic, glass, graphite, porcelain and biomaterials. Each material is explored in great detail, not only concerned with its physical properties, but also with other aspects such as its sensual features, historical background, and cultural connotations.


[1] Stuff Matters, p. 6.

[2] Stuff Matters, p. 3.

[3] Stuff Matters, p. 8.

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