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

Mark Miodownik

Top 10 Best Quotes

“In a very real way, then, materials are a reflection of who we are, a multi-scale expression of our human need and desires.”

“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.”

“We may like to think of ourselves as civilized, but that civilization is in large part bestowed by material wealth. Without this stuff, we would quickly be confronted by the same basic struggle for survival that animals are faced with.”

“Some say that eating chocolate is better than kissing, and scientists have dutifully tested this hypothesis by carrying out a set of experiments. In 2007, a team led by Dr. David Lewis recruited pairs of passionate lovers, whose brain activity and heart rate were monitored first while they kissed each other and then while they ate chocolate (separately). The researchers found that although kissing set the heart pounding, the effect did not last as long as when the participants ate chocolate. The study also showed that when the chocolate started melting, all regions of the brain received a boost far more intense and longer lasting than the brain activity measured while kissing.”

“The appreciation of wine was based solely on the way it tasted. The invention of drinking glasses meant that the color, transparency, and clarity of wine became important, too. We are used to seeing what we drink, but this was new to the Romans, and they loved it.”

“For, in the end, Brearley did manage to create cutlery from stainless steel, and it’s the transparent protective layer of chromium oxide that makes the spoon tasteless, since your tongue never actually touches the metal and your saliva cannot react with it; it has meant that we are one of the first generations who have not had to taste our cutlery.”

“what allows us to behave as humans are our clothes, our homes, our cities, our stuff, which we animate through our customs and language. (This becomes clear if you ever visit a disaster zone.) The material world is not just a display of our technology and culture, it is part of us. We invented it, we made it, and in turn it makes us who we are.”

“studies of “crispness” have shown that the sound created by certain foods is as important to our enjoyment of them as their taste. This has inspired some chefs to create dishes with added sound effects. Some potato chip manufacturers, meanwhile, have increased not just the crunchiness of their chips but the noisiness of the chip bag itself.”

“When light from the sun enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it hits all sorts of molecules (mostly nitrogen and oxygen molecules) on its way to Earth and bounces off them like a pinball. This is called scattering, which means that on a clear day, if you look at any part of the sky, the light you see has been bouncing around the atmosphere before coming into your eye. If all light was scattered equally, the sky would look white. But it doesn’t. The reason is that the shorter wavelengths of light are more likely to be scattered than the longer ones, which means that blues get bounced around the sky more than reds and yellows. So instead of seeing a white sky when we look up, we see a blue one.”

“This is essentially why gold is still valuable in the twenty-first century. If gathered together, all the gold ever mined would fit inside a large town house.”

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Book Keywords:

science, exploration, reflection

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