Liquid Rules: The Delightful and Dangerous Substances That Flow Through Our Lives

Mark Miodownik. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-544-85019-4
In this informative, casual narrative, Miodownik (Stuff Matters), a science professor at University College London, gives a guided tour of the strange, wondrous liquids that flow through everyday life. He compresses myriad science lessons into one transatlantic flight on the theory that “there is no better way to illustrate the power and delight we gain from controlling liquids than by taking a look at those involved in the flight of an airplane and the experience of the passengers onboard.” From beverage cart and lavatory to sky and tarmac, he finds stories waiting in every conceivable corner. Tea, for instance, started its existence as an assortment of “shoots on a seemingly unremarkable evergreen shrub” which modern-day humans’ ancestors didn’t notice for millennia. Wine is a vessel for the “dissolved ethanol you’re about to consume.” Overhead air conditioning exists thanks to “some of the most dangerous liquids on the planet.” Even the humble ink needed to fill out a customs form is a marvel, because flowing and solidifying in the right order, and consistently and fast, “is much trickier than it looks.” 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. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/2018
Release date: 02/19/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-358-10845-0
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