resources | incredible materials: the shape of things to come

August 28, 2018

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— the collection —

What will the future be made of?

The complete series Nova: Making Stuff — is an illustrated guide to the new world of materials that will shape our future. Originally featured on television and now on the web with an educational toolkit. Invisibility cloaks. Spider silk that is stronger than steel. Plastics made of sugar that dissolve in landfills. Self-healing military vehicles, micro-robots, and clothes that monitor your mood. What will the future bring, and what will it be made of?

Popular New York Times journalist David Pogue takes us on an adventure of the material world we live in — and the future world that’s just around the corner. Get a behind-the-scenes look at science innovations making a new generation of materials that are:

Making Stuff :

  • stronger
  • smaller
  • cleaner
  • smarter

Making More Stuff :

  • faster
  • wilder
  • colder
  • safer

— about the show —

Materials create the progress of humanity — from ancient times: engineered with stone, sand, metals and fire — to modern day: dominated by plastics and silicon. We’re on the verge of a materials revolution. International researchers, foundries, engineers and manufacturers push the boundaries of what’s possible with materials. They study biology and chemistry to imbue materials with new qualities — expanding the frontier of our future.

Making Stuff and Making More Stuff is produced in co-operation with the Materials Research Society — international organization of 16,000 materials research scientists from universities, industry, government. The society is a global leader that promotes materials research to improve the quality of life.


episodes | video collection

show title: Nova: Making Stuff
series: no. 1
host: journalist David Pogue


— 1. Making Stuff: stronger —

Host and journalist David Pogue tests his mettle against the world’s strongest stuff — steel, Kevlar, bio-engineered silk. This is the quest for the strongest materials. We explore: what defines strength — looking at metal cables, mollusk shells, and a toucan’s beak. We travel from the deck of a US Navy aircraft carrier, to a demolition derby, to a research lab. We visit experts who are re-engineering nature to create new strong stuff.


— 2. Making Stuff: smaller —

Host and journalist David Pogue investigates the new size + shape of things to come. Micro-robots as small as bacteria, computer chips no thicker than an atom — the science of small is taking us to places we never dreamed we go.  How far can we go in making stuff smaller? Can robots voyage through our bodies? The triumphs of tiny are seen all around us in the information age: transistors, micro-chips, embedded sensors, mobile smart-phones, high-power nano-circuits.

David Pogue takes us to the smallest world — making materials from the bottom-up, atom by atom. He explores the star materials of small applications: silicon — the stuff of computer chips, carbon — the element manipulated to produce future tech. Portable stuff has already revolutionized the way we live. New nano-technology could advance health care, with better bandages and pills that release medicines and don’t break down too soon.


— 3. Making Stuff: cleaner —

Most modern materials are dangerous to the environment, but what about cleaning up our planet? Batteries grown from viruses, tires made from orange peel oil and plastics made of sugar — these are examples of a new generation of clean materials that could power devices of the future. Host and journalist David Pogue explores the fast moving science and business of clean energy. He shows how to: generate it, store it, and distribute it. Is hydrogen the way to go?

One scientist uses chicken feathers for a cheap way to make hydrogen automobiles safer. What about lithium batteries? Does this solve an energy problem or create a new dependency — on a different kind of limited resource than oil? Can scientists make batteries run on molten salts found in cheap abundance? We investigate bio-fuel and solar energy for our cars, homes, and industry in a fascinating show full of stuff of our sustainable future.


— 4. Making Stuff: smarter —

What can nature teach us about building smarter materials? Can we make materials that sense and respond? We look at materials that can morph shape: react, change, learn. A US Army tanker trunk that repairs its own bullet wounds. An airplane wing that changes shape as it flies. Clothing that can monitor your heart rate, health, and mood. Scientists are turning to nature for inspiration.

They copied the sticky feet of gecko lizards to engineer a non-adhesive tape. They studied skin to make a self-healing protective foam. David Pogue swims with sharks to understand how their skin is special. Scientists model a material like shark’s skin to make an anti-bacteria spray for hospitals that could block bad bacterial infections that cling to surfaces. We visit a scientist who crafted a material that could make an invisibility cloak come to life!


episodes | video collection

show title: Nova: Making More Stuff
series: no. 2
host: journalist David Pogue


— 1. Nova | Making More Stuff: faster —

What happens when engineers use nature’s tool box? Revolutionary robots, fabrics made of fish slime. It’s a world of surprising possibilities. Scientists take inspiration from how animals are designed. The bold new shape of things to come.


— 2. Nova | Making More Stuff: wilder —


— 3. Nova | Making More Stuff: colder —


— 4. Nova | Making More Stuff: safer —


w. descriptions from: Nova


on the web | pages

David Pogue | main
Wikipedia | David Pogue

PBS | shows: Nova
PBS | YouTube channel: main
PBS | YouTube channel: Nova

Wikipedia | Nova


on the web | shop

PBS | DVD set — for Nova: Making Stuff
PBS | DVD set — for Nova: Making More Stuff

PBS | blu-ray set — for Nova: Making Stuff
PBS | blu-ray set — for Nova: Making More Stuff


on the web | learning

Wikipedia | biology
Wikipedia | chemistry
Wikipedia | computing
Wikipedia | electronics
Wikipedia | engineering
Wikipedia | foundry
Wikipedia | manufacturing
Wikipedia | materials science
Wikipedia | micro-chip
Wikipedia | nano-technology


education package | resources
From the Materials Research Society.

A collection of materials science resources, activities, demonstrations. This outreach package helps educators and scientists explain learning concepts, plus encourage appreciation and better understanding of our material world — for youth and adults.

explore the collection | home
Making Stuff  | the activity guide


* MRS is the Materials Research Society
* PBS is the Public Broadcasting Service