Review of ‘Liquid’ by Mark Miodownik

‘Liquids have a duality: they are neither a gas nor a solid, but something in-between. They are exciting and powerful, on the one hand, while being anarchic and slightly terrifying on the other.’

Another fascinating and eccentric book on what things are made of, from the author of Stuff Matters. This time, it’s all about liquids. The concept is that Mark is flying from London to San Francisco and turns his attention to the variety of liquids encountered on the way. Including: kerosene, soap, tea and coffee, saliva, refrigerant, alcohol, water, clouds, glue, liquid crystal, ink and the Earth’s outer core. He narrates what’s happening on the flight, in between telling us about the histories of these liquids and how they behave, illustrated with occasional black and white photos and hand-drawn diagrams.

Although I thought this book wasn’t quite as good as his previous book, it was still a great read, educational, funny and sobering in turns. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have the right sort of brain for science, so I don’t worry too much about trying to understand what’s going on with molecules. I just take let the explanations wash over me and marvel about all these miniscule things that are going on, bringing us the miracle of everyday liquids. Although of course there is science, there is a personal touch which makes the book enjoyable.

I rarely comment on book covers but I love this one, so it’s worth mentioning. The image is Noble & Awakening Force (detail) by the painter Katrin Fridriks.

First published in 2018.

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