Fragile Objects: Soft Matter, Hard Science, and the Thrill by Pierre-Gilles de Gennes

By Pierre-Gilles de Gennes

Over the previous few many years we have now discovered very much concerning the habit of such fabrics as liquid crystals, emulsions and colloids, polymers, and complicated molecules. those fabrics, referred to as "soft subject" ("matière fragile" in French), have neither the inflexible constitution and crystalline symmetry of a superb nor the uniformity and illness of a fluid or a gasoline. they've got strange and interesting houses: a few swap their viscosity at our beck and speak to; others shape layers of two-dimensional drinks; a few are polarized, their molecules all orientated within the similar path and delivering unison at our command; others make up the foams, bubbles, waxes, gums, and plenty of different goods we take with no consideration each day. De Gennes, one of many world's prime specialists on those unusual kinds of subject, the following addresses themes starting from soft-matter physics - the formation of rubber, the character and makes use of of gum arabic, the wetting and de-wetting of surfaces, and the mysterious homes of bubbles and foams - to the actions of technology: the function of person or workforce paintings, the relation of discovery to correction, and the interaction of sense of right and wrong and information. within the top culture of technological know-how writing, this ebook teaches us approximately either our international and ourselves.

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Extra info for Fragile Objects: Soft Matter, Hard Science, and the Thrill of Discovery

Example text

While the salt added at this point suppresses the electrical interaction as it did before, the corona is still active, and the colloid remains stabilized, just as it does in Chinese ink. I consider the story of Chinese ink a perfect example in more than one respect. It illustrates the properties of finely divided matter, which plays so prominent a role in our daily lives. Witness the products of the food industry (creams, margarine, mayonnaise), of the oil industry, of the cosmetic industry, and of many others.

In the liquid flow, the stretched polyox molecules "pull" on the water and, in doing so, compensate for the weight of the water column. IFigure 41 Water + Polyox (100 mg/liter) The tubeless siphon. 22 * Part I Soft Matter IFigure 51 Stretched Moleculee The physics of the tubeless siphon. THE RUNAWAY BOAT Polymers in solution have other miraculous properties. A fire breaks out in a high-rise building. Firemen aim their hoses (Figure 6). Despite the powerful pumps, the water jet reaches only the eighth floor.

I To make the glass conductive, it is coated with tin oxide, atransparent material which conducts electricity. Chapter 5 Liquid Crystals and the School of Fish * 49 If one examines the properties of a ray of sunlight, no privileged direction is apparent in a plane perpendicular to the ray (Figure 2Ia). The same is true of light emitted by ordinary sources, such as a candle or a light bulb. Things change, however, when sunlight is reflected by a glass surface. A reflected ray does have a privileged direction: it turns out to be the direction perpendicular to the plane formed by the incident and the reflected rays (Figure 2Ib).

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