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Materials science is one of those areas of science that we see and interact with every day, yet we don’t often stop to marvel at the elegance of the materials around us.

Strange Matter, our special limited engagement exhibition, illuminates materials science — the study of “stuff” — in a way that is cooler than we ever thought possible.

For example, some materials break “rules” that we typically accept as being unbreakable.

We commonly think of glass as being extremely fragile, so much so that when my colleagues and I introduce Museum guests to our World Alive tarantulas, we talk about how fragile the body of the arachnid is and how it would “shatter like glass” if we were to drop it.

But in Strange Matter, you can slam a 12 lb. bowling ball into a piece of tempered glass that has already been hit more than 70,000 times without breaking! And this isn’t some unique piece of glass that exists only in a museum.

Tempered glass is anything but fragile. It is used in many places where it needs to hold up under a tremendous amount of force: basketball goals, refrigerators and cookware.

To get a glimpse of where materials science may be headed with glass, check out Corning’s vision of the future and Google Glass — amazing!

Similarly surprising, we generally think that liquids are not magnetic and that the magnetic field around the poles is invisible to the naked eye. What if I told you that a fluid can have magnetic properties and even reveal the magnetic field that surrounds a magnet through its fluid properties?

Not only does ferrofluid do this in an unbelievably elegant display, but it is used in everything from loudspeakers to MRIs to drive shafts.

Strange Matter shows us that advances in modern materials, from metals to magnets to glass, are not only marvelous and elegant but they are all around us, forcing us to take another look at the amazing science we might be missing out on in our daily lives.

By Gábor Zsuppán, Manager, (In)Formal Education

Filed Under: Breaking Science
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