Skip to main content

Mark Miodownik – Four Way Interview

Mark is an engineer and materials scientist. He is the Professor of Materials and Society at UCL where he teaches and runs a research group. His research areas include self-assembling materials, self-healing materials, psychophysical properties of materials. Mark is the Director of the Institute of Making which is a multidisciplinary research club for those interested in the made world: from makers of molecules to makers of buildings, synthetic skin to spacecraft, soup to clothes, furniture to cities. Mark is a broadcaster and writer on science and engineering issues, and believes passionately that to engineer is human. He gave the 2010 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, and is a regular presenter of science and engineering BBC TV programmes. Mark’s first book is Stuff Matters.
Why science?
I got stabbed, and became obsessed. Not with science, but first with knives and then the stuff they were made from. I noticed materials everywhere and went a bit mad, they call it OCD these days. Everything is made from something I realised, but noone talked about those somethings…and well, I wanted to know what they were. Materials Science which is the systematic study of how physics, chemistry, biology and engineering create stuff, caught my attention, and thats what I do.
Why this book?
Materials Science is not the whole story about stuff. It took me twenty years to really understand that, and so thats why I wrote the book, to show that materials are more than technology, they are a kind of reflection of who we are as a society. The ages of civilisation are named after materials: the stone age, the bronze age, the iron age, and so it is now, only its a lot more complicated. Unpicking where all this stuff came from and what it means is the point of my book.
What’s next?
Along with a very talented team at UCL we have created an institute that is a physical embodiment of the philosophy of the book. Its called the Institute of Making. We aim to show that making is not just technologically important, but also is an important part of being human.
What’s exciting you at the moment?
The maker movement is really getting going, Fab labs, Hack Spaces, MakeSpaces are all coming to a neighbourhood near you soon!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Four Way Interview - Tom Cabot

Tom Cabot is a London-based book editor and designer with a background in experimental psychology, natural science and graphic design. He founded the London-based packaging company, Ketchup, and has produced and illustrated many books for the British Film Institute, Penguin and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Tom has held a lifelong passion to explain science graphically and inclusively ... ever since being blown away by Ray and Charles Eames’ Powers of Ten at an early age. His first book is Eureka, an infographic guide to science.

Why infographics?
For me infographics provided a way to present heavy-lifting science in an alluring and playful, but ultimately illuminating, way. And I love visualising data and making it as attractive as the ideas are.  The novelty of the presentation hopefully gets the reader to look afresh. I love the idea of luring in readers who might normally be put off by drier, more monotone science – people who left science behind at 16. I wanted the boo…

Einstein's Greatest Mistake - David Bodanis ****

Books on Einstein and his work are not exactly thin on the ground. There's even been more than one book before with a title centring on Einstein's mistake or mistakes. So to make a new title worthwhile it has do something different - and David Bodanis certainly achieves this with Einstein's Greatest Mistake. If I'm honest, the book isn't the greatest on the science or the history - but what it does superbly is tell a story. The question we have to answer is why that justifies considering this to be a good book.
I would compare Einstein's Greatest Mistake with the movie Lincoln -  it is, in effect, a biopic in book form with all the glory and flaws that can bring. Compared with a good biography, a biopic will distort the truth and emphasise parts of the story that aren't significant because they make for a good screen scene. But I would much rather someone watched the movie than never found out anything about Lincoln - and similarly I'd much rather someon…

A Tale of Seven Scientists - Eric Scerri ***

Scientists sometimes tell us we're in a post-philosophy world. For example, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in The Grand Design bluntly say that that philosophy is 'dead' - no longer required, as science can do its job far better. However, other scientists recognise the benefits of philosophy, particularly when it is applied to their own discipline. One such is Eric Scerri, probably the world's greatest expert on the periodic table, who in this challenging book sets out to modify the philosophical models of scientific progress.

I ought to say straight away that A Tale of Seven Scientists sits somewhere on the cusp between popular science and a heavy duty academic title. For reasons that will become clear, I could only give it three stars if rating it as popular science, but it deserves more if we don't worry too much about it being widely accessible.

One minor problem with accessibility is that I've never read a book that took so long to get started. First t…