- Hardcover: 232 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (19 February 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 054485019X
- ISBN-13: 978-0544850194
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.3 x 21 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 363 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Liquid Rules: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances That Flow Through Our Lives Hardcover – 19 Feb 2019
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"Liquid Rules is an entertaining discussion of the various ways our lives are enriched by fluids. From the physics of ballpoint pens to the origin of jet-aircraft contrails, the book rewards the reader with fascinating facts and insights. Every day, millions of people travel on an airplane. Fortunately, Mark Miodownik was recently one of them."
--Wall Street Journal
"Written in a conversational tone, with all of the charm that genuine enthusiasm for the subject brings...[Miodownik] draws on his experience as an engineer and materials scientist and his skills as a science writer to make complex concepts accessible and, better still, intuitive...Liquid Rules is both entertaining and informative, which makes it a useful tool in the fight to promote scientific literacy. At a time when technology, science, and public policy are often at odds, Miodownik adds to our understanding of the physical world with humor and sound science."
"Miodownik combines history and cutting-edge research to describe the various forms and uses of liquids, from the history of liquid fuels and ink to the art and science behind brewing a great cup of coffee or tea. Liquid Rules is filled with trivia both delightful and gross, because the liquids in our lives can be delightful or gross (or anything in between)...Accessible and entertaining."
"Mark Miodownik is the science communicator's science communicator . . . Once again, he has written a book much like the substances it describes: exciting, anarchic and surprising. Like the sea, it covers a lot of ground. And like a perfectly made cup of tea, it is warm, comforting and very refreshing."
"It's probably fair to say that most people don't find materials science an inherently exciting topic. But this opinion is nearly impossible to hold after reading anything written by Mark Miodownik. In Stuff Matters, Miodownik revealed that materials as apparently humdrum as concrete are actually amazing. In Liquid Rules, Miodownik yet again makes the seemingly mundane awe-inspiring. I'll never look at a ballpoint pen the same way again."
--Kelly and Zach Weinersmith, New York Times-bestselling authors of Soonish
"Mark Miodownik flies high again in Liquid Rules. It's a treat to see the world through his eyes as he flows from topic to topic, and under his gaze even the most mundane things--ballpoint pens, ketchup bottles, a cup of tea--sizzle with significance."
--Sam Kean, New York Times-bestselling author of The Disappearing Spoon and Caesar's Last Breath
"A witty, engaging, and deeply knowledgeable look at our nonsolid world. By taking a transatlantic flight with Miodownik, you'll be amazed by what you learn."
--Jon Gertner, New York Times-bestselling author of The Idea Factory and The Ice at the End of the World
"This book delivers exactly what it promises . . . A splendid soup of liquid-related science . . . It's a treat. I lost count of the number of 'but why?' questions it answers . . . This is a winning and hugely readable book."
"A sparkling exposition of materials in science and engineering . . . Lively."
"Miodownik writes with such knowledge, such enthusiasm, such a palpable love for his subject."
--Oliver Sacks, on Stuff Matters
"I'm pleased to report that he is a witty, smart writer who has a great talent for imparting his love of this subject."
--Bill Gates, on Stuff Matters
"Miodownik writes an engaging companionto his previous book, Stuff Matters, painting a picture of our relationship with liquids ('a form of matter in which molecules swim around') via a narrative cleverly structured around a transatlantic flight...Funny as well as instructive . . . This imminently readable book straddles both science and social science and should be enjoyable to readers of high school age through adult."
"[Miodownik] follows up his prizewinning debut with an equally focused tour of liquids . . . the author's enthusiasm and wry humor even make these relatively banal substances entertaining...cleverly told and engagingly accessible study of the stuff around us."
"Informative, casual narrative . . . this popular science work straightforwardly and clearly explains 'the mysterious properties of liquids and how we have come to rely on them' in a novel, engaging manner."
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Mark Miodownik has written a surprising and immensely entertaining book on liquids, to include those which sit right on the border, like tar and peanut butter. He stages his discussion on a transoceanic flight which brings the subject into sharp focus as he argues the property of peanut butter with TSA and goes on to discuss the subtle differences between same and kerosene or nitro glycerine. He strikes a unique balance between levity and serious science in a way that engages both scientists and those who would nod off during a drier and more direct discussion of the topic, or so I think. I fall in the first camp.
I not only got a refresher on a subject, or point of view which I had not considered in many years, but learned a good deal on the way. It is not and easy task to write a general interest book on science and keep it interesting, even more so to do it in a way which is neither condescending nor too obtuse, and one which does not require an introductory course. He must be a wonderful professor. To be able to so engage people in print is quite a trick.
All that said, I am not quite sure who this was written for or who to recommend it to. I believe that just about anyone could pick it up, have an enjoyable ride and learn quite a bit along the way (to include practical topics, like how to make the perfect cup of tea, a skill which likely needs some honing for those of us in the Americas). This does present an opportunity for those of us not lucky enough to study at Cambridge to experience the gifts of a great popular science educator..someone who understands his subject matter so well he can bring it down to earth even for the uninitiated. Though somewhat less well known, I would compare his writing to Carl Sagan, or Brian Greene (maybe less well known to those who have not tried to grasp string theory) or even Bill Nye or Neal DeGrasse Tyson.
That said, perhaps it offers something for everyone. I do believe it is a book that just about anyone can enjoy.
Before he discusses specific liquids, though, like a good scientist he defines his terms. Just what makes something a liquid? Is peanut butter a liquid? Yes, he says, and so does TSA in American airports! ( In layman’s terms, liquids are just things that assume the shape of their container.) After the introduction, each chapter talks about a different type of liquid, specifically the liquids he encounters on a transatlantic plane trip: Explosive (jet fuel), Intoxicating (alcohol), Sticky (glue), etc. There is a LOT of science, including diagrams of molecular structure (There were some passages where my eyes glazed over a bit.), but also history, little-known information, like the fact that George Orwell, in addition to writing about dystopias in 1984 and Animal Farm, wrote about how to approach utopia by publishing eleven rules for making the perfect cup of tea, and fun tales like Miodinow’s account of his experience getting VERY close to an active volcano or the story of Professor Thomas Parnell of the University of Queensland, who studied what happens if you dump a bunch of tar into a funnel and let it sit for more than 80 years.
While Miodownik is explaining the properties of various liquids, he naturally talks about how they are used. I confess that I never thought about how wings are attached to airplanes, and I was more than a little disconcerted to learn that they are GLUED on…until Miodownik described the nature of glues and put my mind at rest. Well, mostly at rest.
Some of the liquids he chooses to tell us about are fairly obvious choices, like the jet fuel; others are more idiosyncratic. I was especially intrigued by the discussion of saliva in the chapter Visceral. Saliva is certainly not something that we think about very often, but it plays a big role in our everyday lives, as Mlodinow engagingly explains. I never realized quite all the good things saliva does for me, and I am once again amazed and grateful for the wonder that is my body. Given his intimate acquaintance with saliva and everything it can do for our gustatory pleasures, I guess I should not have been surprised by his rapturous description of just what a good cup of tea should taste like or by his cogently argued case for why you should order coffee rather than tea if you are in an economy-class seat on a plane.
Any reader interested in the world around them will find delights in this book, but it will be of most interest to those who can remember a fair bit from their chemistry classes in high school or, better yet, college. Others may need to skip a few paragraphs here and there and move on. So just relax and go with the flow; after all, that is what liquids do!
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