resources | Incredible Materials: the shape of things to come

Explore your natural world with these videos + activity kit.
October 25, 2018

image | above

featured: hand-crafted models of molecules
photo: by Sperling Atomics co.


— the series —

What will the future be made of?

The complete science video series Nova: Making Stuff + Making More 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 activity kit.

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 tomorow bring, and what will it be made of?

Materials create the humanity’s progress — 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 our frontier.

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:

season 1 — Making Stuff :

  • stronger
  • smaller
  • cleaner
  • smarter

season 2 — Making More Stuff :

  • faster
  • wilder
  • colder
  • safer

— episodes —

show series: Nova: Making Stuff + Making More Stuff
seasons: 1 + 2
host: journalist David Pogue

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



videos | SEASON no. 1


season: no. 1
episode: no. 1
show title: Making Stuff — STRONGER
year: 2011

about | 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.


season: no. 1
episode: no. 2
show title: Making Stuff — SMALLER
year: 2011

about | 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.


season: no. 1
episode: no. 3
show title: Making Stuff — CLEANER
year: 2011

about | 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.


season: no. 1
episode: no. 4
show title: Making Stuff — SMARTER
year: 2011

about | 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!



videos | SEASON no. 2


season: no. 2
episode: no. 1
show title: Making More Stuff — FASTER

about | Host David Pogue tries to find out if there are physical limits to how fast we can go. Ever since humans stood on two feet we want to move faster. But are there physical limits to how fast we can go? David Pogue wants to find out, and in this episode he investigates electric muscle cars, America’s Cup sailboats, and bicycles that smash speed records.


season: no. 2
episode: no. 2
show title: Making More Stuff — WILDER

about | What happens when scientists open up nature’s toolbox? In this episode David Pogue explores bold new innovations inspired by the Earth’s greatest inventor: life. He discovers robotic “mules” and “cheetahs” for the military, and fabrics from fish slime. He travels the globe to find the world’s wildest new inventions and technologies.


season: no. 2
episode: no. 3
show title: Making More Stuff — COLDER

about | Host David Pogue asks if cold holds the key to technology that can improve our lives.


season: no. 2
episode: no. 4
show title: Making Stuff — SAFER

about | Host David Pogue examines ground-breaking research that aims to keep us out of harm’s way.



learning | ACTIVITIES


package | activity kit
Explore your natural world.

A fun activity kit featuring materials science: lessons, projects, demos. Good for a rainy day or outdoor play. This creative and beautiful educational package helps teachers, scientists, and parents explain concepts. And encourages better understanding of our material world — for youth + adults.

see the collection: home
discover Making Stuff: activity guide

from: PBS


on the web | pages

David Pogue | home

PBS | television shows: Nova
PBS | YouTube channel: home
PBS | YouTube channel: 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


— notes —

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


[ story file ]

story title: resources | Incredible Materials: the shape of things to come
deck: Explore your natural world with these videos + activity kit.
year: 2018
posted: by managing editor
section: blog

type  |  resources