Miodownik’s Marvellous Materials
9 9 2017
Miodownik’s Marvellous Materials

Everything is made of something

Materials science is “a map of the world, but not one you’ve seen before,” said Mark Miodownik, a scientist who swapped his Institute of Making in London for the Casa del Mantegna in Mantua for the Festivaletteratura. Miodownik led his enthralled audience of children and adults on a journey of discovery of the types of materials found all around the world, such as glass, cement, wood, and brick. From objects easily seen by the naked eye to the miniscule fibres, holes, pieces, and patterns that compose our world, Miodownik left no cell unturned.

Calling a volunteer to the front, Miodownik used a microscope to project the details of the child’s shirt onto the screen: the fibres of the fabric and some brioche crumbs. While the audience watched in awe, Miodownik moved the microscope first to the child’s arm and then to his own, demonstrating the differences age has on the skin. “It’s incredible,” a girl said as he showed the hairs of his beard: black, brown, white... and unnaturally gigantic on the screen.


Seven rows of attentive faces watched Miodownik intently as he poured vinegar into baking soda, causing it to foam and bubble. “If you like cooking or eating, then you like chemistry,” Miodownik proclaimed as he explored the differences between the air pockets in a muffin and the holes of a sponge. The audience laughed as he took a bite of each. In the end, Miodownik inspired a curiosity to learn more about the physical world, a method by which to discover it, and a habit of seeking actual proof for any and all ideas.