Author:                        Mark Miodownik

Publisher:                    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publication Date:        May 27, 2014

Print length:                272 pages

Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World takes the reader through a fascinating journey of discovery as the author studies ordinary objects to uncover fascinating secrets about the materials that make our physical world together. From the cultural impact of plastic to modernization of self-healing concrete, Miodownik takes the reader through a microscopic look at everyday things we hardly notice, revealing the engineering marvels that infiltrate our lives. An absorbing contemplation on why materials look and act the way they do; Stuff Matters will teach the reader to see the material world (rather the world of martials) in a completely new approach.

The real difference between materials are deep below the surface, a world that is shut off from the most unless they have access to sophisticated scientific equipment.

The author narrates the story of ten ingredients which provide us with much of the substance that ambiances us. Midownik expresses his passion for the useful, emotive, and sensory aspect of materials such as steel, concrete, ceramics, polymers, glass, and more. Arguably the most interesting chapter for the average reader may be the one on paper. In his commentary on paper, Midownik describes all the different aspects of paper- from the wrapping paper to the office stationary. This thousands of years of old technology is gradually leaving from our lives as the digital ecosphere replaces printing or writing letters on sheets of paper.

Although the Pantheon survived the fall of the Roman Empire, concrete as a material did not.

to the author, another Roman invention, concrete is almost as enduring as books. The author explains how Roman Empire used concrete to construct some of its longest-lasting structures, like the dome of the Pantheon, which has stood for more than 20 centuries and remains the world’s oldest unreinforced concrete structure. Miodownik further elaborates on how, despite its sturdiness, concrete’s fragility had become a problem, the Romans were unable to solve. When he turns to plastics, Miodownik celebrates celluloid, which he said has had the largest cultural impact. Without it, film would have been impossible. The author also takes a moment to talk about craft inventions that were created before the scientific age. Miodownik concludes that materials are so much more than “blobs of differently colored matter”—they are marvels, and looking at them a little closer allows us to gain insight into the reasons they look and act the way they do.

The author’s thoughtful and careful study of ingredients makes that the vivid reader will never look at our everyday stuff the same way again. Both the knowledgeable author and the interesting storyteller in him, deserve the readers’ praise for opening their eyes to the deeper value of objects and materials that often ignore.