Superstuff!: Materials That Have Changed Our Lives

by Fred Bortz

Franklin Watts Inc.
Glossary; Index


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LIBRARIAN: In Chapter one, Fred Bortz tells us that this book is about, "the remarkable materials of today--semiconductors and superconductors, ceramics and composites, plastics and synthetic fabrics, special kinds of glass for fiber optics, miracle alloys, super-adhesives, and many other kinds of superstuff--and how they change our lives." The discussion is not so much about the uses of these materials or, "How they change our lives," as it is about the technical properties which make it possible for these materials to be the basis for new technology. Bortz explains how technology progressed, from the Stone Age through the shorter Ages of Iron and of Steam and Steel, to the recent Electronic Age and the emerging Age of Phototonics. He goes on to explain principles of electronic conductivity and of atomic and molecular structure in a text that is densely informative. Chapters on the semiconductor revolution and superconductors are followed by discussion of polymers, metals and alloys, and ceramics and glass. There is some information about the history of discovery, and some examples of use are included, but, for the most part, this is a serious examination of microstructures which demands attentive reading. Numerous diagrams are provided, along with adequate black and white photographs. There is no bibliography, but a glossary and index are provided. Clearly materials science will continue to grow in importance, and this may be useful for advanced level science students.

--Reviewed by Margaret A. Bush in Appraisal, 24/4 (Autumn 1991), p. 10.

SPECIALIST: Superstuff contains a great deal of information about materials science that should be of value to anyone interested in the field, especially those contemplating materials science as a career option. The book examines the foundations of the discipline, from antiquity to its present status, and identifies the sources from which current technology is derived.

The text has an interesting format when describing the development of fascinating materials and their use for important projects and applications. For readers with an adequate scientific background, the text is very good. On the other hand, for readers who have had little or no scientific background--more specifically chemistry and physics-- the text may be too complex in some areas, even though the glossary is adequate and the explanations are excellent, such scientific vocabulary as quantum mechanics, ionic bonds, covalent bonds, shared electrons, metallic bonds, etc., may frustrate these individuals. In any case, the book is an excellent synthesis of what has happened in the evolution of materials science and identifies the challenges we face for future development.

--Reviewed by Joseph J. Aleo in Appraisal, 24/4 (Autumn 1991), p. 10.