Softies

Sensitive Matter: Foams, Gels, Liquid Crystals, and Other Miracles by Michel Mitov

Review by Amanda Mead

What do carrots and a flat-screen television have in common? Put this orange tuber root next to a 40” high definition TV, and the shared elements might not be obvious. But according to physicist and research scientist Michel Mitov, it’s soft matter that makes the difference.

In Sensitive Matter, Mitov addresses the mysteries behind the bubbles in champagne, the controlled release of drugs, and the ‘polywater’ that inspired Kurt Vonnegut’s controversial Cat’s Cradle.  The everyday object is more than what meets the eye, holding within itself the complexities of sensitive, soft, matter.

Sensitive Matter clarifies the mysteries of these lesser-asked and more obscure questions in science. Mitov utilizes each chapter as a lesson in physics, dealing with one individual concept at a time. If you don’t remember your grade-school lessons on the different parts of a cell or how surface tension works, you’ll feel as if no time has passed as Mitov describes the thread-like liquid crystals of soft matter arranged like a school of fish, or quicksand as a reference to the maximum angle of stability. Continue reading

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