Science Sunday: Tricky Liquids
Updated: Nov 18, 2018
The world of Chronsylvania is full of strange phenomena, much like our own. Every Sunday we'll highlight an article that explores the strange, and very real, scientific properties of our universe. We'll also leave you with a writing/drawing prompt based on the article to get your creative juices flowing.
This week’s article is an interview from The Guardian with award-winning scientist and author Mark Miodownik. Miodownik’s new book Liquid: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances That Flow Through Our Lives, explores the incredibly unpredictable and volatile nature of liquids. He introduces the idea that the physical world is made up of much more than the traditional three states of matter (solids, gases, and liquids) that you learned about in 4th grade science class. Miodownik claims that “You may have thought ‘solids, liquids, gas, everyone knows these are the pillars of science.’ That’s absolute rubbish. All states of matter diffuse into each other.”
Mind. Officially. Blown.
You can read the full interview here: https://amp.theguardian.com/science/2018/sep/09/mark-miodownik-interview-liquids-are-not-to-be-trusted-plastics-environment-water-universal-solvent
In addition to discussing his research on liquids, Miodownik explores a menagerie of diverse topics. From to the problematic genius of plastics, to the over-hyped nature of the “super-material” graphene, to the foundational issue of how people interact with the physical materials in their lives, this interview covers miles of thought-provoking ground. But amidst this plethora of ideas, one stands out among the rest, and that is Miodownik’s somewhat idealistic, yet highly elegant, solution to improve human life across the planet.
Miodownik believes that we won’t solve the problems of climate change, pollution, and the constant drive for economic development at the cost of the environment until we stop and consider the materials in our lives. How they are made, how we use them, and what happens when we are done with them. He posits, quite philosophically, that our disposable culture has led to a sense of meaninglessness in our collective lives. If all we do is consume materials, how will we ever find a sense of fulfillment? If all we do is gobble up food and entertainment and information, how will we ever find purpose?
Well, as Miodownik says, “People need to understand how things are made more; that will make them appreciate and enjoy the world more. Life isn’t just about going to work or fiddling with your phone. People wonder why their life isn’t satisfying and the answer is they are aren’t making something.”
There you have it. If you want to feel fulfilled, you have to create. You have to make something.
And your chance to make something starts right now.
Creative Prompt: Look to your left. What is the first object you see? Write it down. Don’t cheat and write down the second or third or fifteenth object you see because the first one was too hard. The very first object you see.
Now, divide your paper into three equal sections.
In the first section, write/draw about the components that make up the object. Consider their origins as far back as your imagination will take you. What forest did the wood in that rocking chair originally come from? On what ocean floor did the sand that was melted to make that light bulb originally rest? You don’t have to know the facts here (you could certainly do some research if you’d like), but you do need to consider the primal origins of the materials contained within the object.
In the second section, write/draw about the current state of the object. What uses does it have, both functional and stylistic? Does it hold any sentimental value? Does it carry any metaphorical or figurative weight? In short, how does this object provide a direct impact upon you and your life? Did your grandmother rock you to sleep using that rocking chair? Does the presence of that light bulb ward off your lifelong irrational fear of the dark?
In the third and final section, write/draw about what might happen to that object once you are done using it. Consider where it will go, how it will be used, and any future states it might take. As with all of these prompts, let your imagination speculate wildly here. Saying that the rocking chair will rot at the bottom of a landfill is too hopelessly depressing of an answer for this exercise. Instead, consider all of the wild possibilities. Will the wood from that rocking chair teem with an intellectually advanced microscopic society of single-celled organisms? Will the carbon in the wood decompose and, several millenia later, become part of some new, highly-evolved life form completely unimaginable to our twenty-first century minds? Will the glass from that light bulb be melted down and re-used in the windshield of the first manned mission to Jupiter?
Share your writing and art with us on Twitter and Instagram @lumberjacksonco or you can email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to broadcast your writing and art to the world via our website and social media channels. If you want us to publish your work, simply include a brief message that reads, “Okay to publish.”
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Follow the Guardian on Instagram and Twitter @guardian
Follow Mark Miodownik on Twitter @markmiodownik and on Instagram @the_materialist_wizz
Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next Wednesday with a brand new page.