Did you know—
• It took more than an iceberg to sink the Titanic.
• The Challenger disaster was predicted.
• Unbreakable glass dinnerware had its origin in railroad lanterns.
• A football team cannot lose momentum.
• Mercury thermometers are prohibited on airplanes for a crucial reason.
• Kryptonite bicycle locks are easily broken.
“Things fall apart” is more than a poetic insight—it is a fundamental property of the physical world. Why Things Break explores the fascinating question of what holds things together (for a while), what breaks them apart, and why the answers have a direct bearing on our everyday lives.
When Mark Eberhart was growing up in the 1960s, he learned that splitting an atom leads to a terrible explosion—which prompted him to worry that when he cut into a stick of butter, he would inadvertently unleash a nuclear cataclysm. Years later, as a chemistry professor, he remembered this childhood fear when he began to ponder the fact that we know more about how to split an atom than we do about how a pane of glass breaks.
In Why Things Break, Eberhart leads us on a remarkable and entertaining exploration of all the cracks, clefts, fissures, and faults examined in the field of materials science and the many astonishing discoveries that have been made about everything from the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger to the crashing of your hard drive. Understanding why things break is crucial to modern life on every level, from personal safety to macroeconomics, but as Eberhart reveals here, it is also an area of cutting-edge science that is as provocative as it is illuminating.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Why Things Break|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Crown Publishing Group|
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Why Things Break
ATOMS, MARBLES, and FRACTURE
What incredible luck. The waitress had just unknowingly placed the most amazing water glass on our table. Halfway up the glass was a crack about two centimeters long. This was one of those fantastic cracks where neither end intersected a surface. These are stable and, if left alone, will simply hibernate. Water does not leak from these cracks, their presence is known only by the reflection of light from their surfaces. If disturbed, however, they wake up, sometimes violently, growing with incredible speed, often branching as they go, reducing whatever contained them in their quiescent state to a pile of razor-sharp shards.
Though the crack in this water glass was a rare find, it was even more remarkable in that it was oriented nearly parallel to the bottom of the glass. If gently awakened, the ends of this crack could be made to grow around the glass and meet at the same point, dividing the glass into two parts. Quickly downing the water, I used the handle of a butter knife to tap on the glass, ever so gently, near the tips of the crack. Too sharp a blow and the crack would become uncontrollable. With each tap, the crack grew slightly and stopped. Slowly the ends of the crack worked their way around the glass and, with no apparent sound, they joined. As if by magic, aided only by the butter knife "wand," the glass had been separated.
I was delighted with my carefully divided glass. My lunch companions, however, were less than pleased. I was, after all, with my impressionable young nieces and their parents. The looks on their faces suggested that I had just committed the most ill-conceived of social faux pas. Though this incide