The Race Is On: Cast Your Vote for the Top Ten Greatest Works of Materials Fiction

JOM, Jan 2015

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The Race Is On: Cast Your Vote for the Top Ten Greatest Works of Materials Fiction

JOM The Race Is On: Cast Your Vote for the Top Ten Greatest Works of Materials Fiction Lynne Robinson When the JOM editorial team asked readers to submit nominations for the JOM Materials Fiction Countdown in September 2014, we were operating under a couple of assumptions: 1.) We would receive about half a dozen nominations and 2.) all the Boy, were we wrong. referenced minerals, metals, or materials science and engineering. Even more gratifying was the breadth of nominees-Shakespeare, Homer, children's stories, and romance novels This left us with a happy dilemma. The ultimate goal of the JOM Materials Fiction Countdown was to give readers the opportunity to vote for the Top Ten Greatest Works So, as is the way of TMS, we turned to our volunteers to make a good thing even better. In October, the TMS Board of Directors appointed an ad hoc committee to whittle the roster down to the 25 strongest candidates in terms of their connection to minerals, metals, and materials science and engineering. In addition to drawing from their own literary knowledge, the committee members carefully reviewed the written nominations, as well as resources and reviews that provided additional details and insight on the works. The task was easier said than done, particularly with so many written nominations making strong arguments for why a favorite book should be included. It was nice to see how many readers were really passionate about the books they nominated, said Thomas Battle, one of the committee members. With the key criteria that the work must prominently feature some aspect of minerals, metals or materials science and engineering guiding their way, the committee succeeded engineers are much more well-rounded than the engineer stereotype. All TMS members realize the importance of metals and materials, but this list shows that a wide variety of popular literature requires a discussion of materials in order for the stories to work, added Tom Battle. Sometimes, it's an assumed 'magical material,' while other times, how that material is made or disseminated is the core of the story. But as the author Robert Heinlein said, 'One man's magic is another man's engineering.' The real fun now begins as JOM nominations presented on the following pages in alphabetical order. Then, go to the JOM website at to access the online ballot (see sidebar for additional information). possibilities of the materials world. - How, Where, and When to Vote Voting for the Top Ten Greatest Works of Materials Fiction opens on February 1 and will close on March 21. To access the online ballot, as well as additional details about the nominees, visit the JOM website at and click on the JOM Materials Fiction Countdown icon at the top. A voting kiosk will also be set up in the Exhibit Hall at the TMS 2015 Annual Meeting & Exhibition, March 1519, in Orlando Florida. The winners of the countdown will be announced in the July issue of JOM. The JOM Materials Fiction Countdown The Final 25 Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand In a dystopian future, Dagney Taggert, vice president of operations for Taggart Transcontinental, sets out on a quest to repair her railroads deteriorating Rio Norte Line to provide service to Colorado, the last great industrial center in the world. She turns to Hank Rearden and his Rearden Metal, a revolutionary, experimental alloy that is stronger than conventional steel at a fraction of the weight and cost to save her business, despite government interference and conspiracy against industrial progress. Materials Connections: Hank Rearden, a brilliant metallurgist and engineer, is a hero for trying to stand up to attempts to control production of his metal. In general, Atlas Shrugs explores the potential impact of minerals, metals, and materials science and engineering on the economy and social order. Cats Cradle Kurt Vonnegut Felix Hoenikker, an eccentric scientist, secretly invents ice-nine, a substance with the potential of solidifying all the water on earth. Upon his death, his children divide the ice-nine among themselves and use it for their own gain. Materials Connections: The original purpose of ice-nine was relatively benignto solidify mud in swamps so that soldiers would be able to march through them more easily. As the story unfolds, it demonstrates how profoundly materials science can change the world and how abuse of that power can have disastrous, unintended consequences. an unknown location. Materials Connections: A critical component of the machine is an erbium dowel. Making the machine purity. Contact was published in 1985, well before the more recent advances in rare earth element production. Two tons of erbium, at the time, exceeded the annual the book is the process of extracting erbium from ore, following the detailed instructions transmitted by the extraterrestrials. The Cross-Time Engineer Leo Frankowski Conrad Stargard is a Polish engineer from the 1980s who is accidently transported to the year 1231. He realizes that the Mongols are due to invade Poland in about ten years, killing most of the population of Central Europe in their wake. Stargard makes it his mission to use his modern engineering knowledge to change history by establishing Poland as an industrial and military powerhouse capable of defeating the Mongol Horde. Materials Connections: Introducing advancements in extractive metallurgy and steel making are a few of the materials-focused strategies that Stargard employs to establish the industrial base that he envisions to support his planned defense of Poland. The Dark Knight Returns Frank Miller Batman/Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement in this landmark graphic novel to take on an ultra-violent gang terrorizing Gotham City. Seeing Batman as a threat to its authority, the corrupt government that now runs this apocalyptic world dispatches Superman to kill him. While Superman clearly has the edge over him physically, Batman manages to defeat him by virtue of his cunning, engineering genius, and indomitable will. Materials Connections: Batman has always been about the gadgets, but never more so than in this tale, as he is compelled to compensate for his aging body and diminished physical prowess. Advanced materials play a key role in his victory, from his futuristic suit of armor, Kryptonite that he has created in his laboratory. Days of Future Past Chris Claremont and John Byrne Published in 1981, this graphic novel paints a bleak portrait of the year 2013, in which cruel discrimination against humans with mutant superpowers is enforced by technologically advanced robots called Sentinels. A nuclear strike is being planned on North America to prevent the Sentinels from conquering the world. The few mutant heroes known as X-Men who have survived the Sentinel invasion send the consciousness of one of their ownKitty Prydeback in time to avert the incident potentially change the future. Materials Connections: Many of the X-Men in this storyline have materials-enabled superpowers. They include Wolverine (near-indestructible adamantium into steel at will), and Magneto (power over magnetic The Diamond Age Neal Stephenson Set in a future world where nanotechnology dominates all aspects of life, the story follows a poor, uneducated girl named Nell as she learns to think for herself with the aid of an illegal, interactive primer. Materials Connections: The books title refers to a new material age of human progress, in which technology makes it possible to produce a solid diamond at will. The Diamond Age is rich in technical details about a society dependent on bottom-up nanotechnology and Drexleresque assemblers that harness materials atom-by-atom Dragons Egg/Starquake Robert L. Forward Presented as a set for voting consideration, Dragons Egg and its sequel, Starquake, describe the evolution of an alien technology and civilization that exist on a neutron Materials Connections: Cheela, the intelligent beings the size of a sesame seed who live on the star, create fantastic machines from an array of novel materials such as monopole magnets. Also in this world, neutronium, a theoretical state of matter, can and does exist. psychohistory to mathematically predict the downfall of civilization and a subsequent dark age of 30,000 years. Hoping to cut short this approaching epoch of barbarism, Seldon works to create the Foundation of artisans and engineers as a means of preserving and expanding on humanitys collective knowledge. Materials Connections: As with any advanced society, materials play an important role in the development of the Foundation. Examples of this can be found in such devices as individual atomic shields and a transmuter that turns iron into gold. Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire series) George R.R. Martin A dizzying array of characters gives life to the medieval land of Westeros as warring dynasties try to lay claim to the ultimate seat of power, the Iron Throne. Materials Connections: One of the gods worshiped by much of Westeros is the Smith, who represents creation, craftsmanship, and strength. This is indicative of the practical and symbolic importance of metalworking in Westeros society, with the lost art of forging Valyrian steel (very reminiscent of Damascus steel) considered the apex achievement in this regard. The maesters, the order of scholars and scientists that advise Westeros nobility, study added to a chain around their necks. Obsidian is fashioned into a weapon to kill a supernatural enemy, and the characteristics of swords, helms, and shields are used course, theres that Iron Throne. rage, and uncontrolled grief through the story of Achilles, the greatest warrior in the Greek army. Materials Connections: Armor is much more than a protective covering in the Illiad, with many key plot points turning on the suitability of the armor to the soldier wearing it. This is especially true of the divine armor and shield forged by the god Hephaestus for Achilles that enable him to defeat and slay Hector outside the gates of Troy. Numerous descriptions of cruel bronze weaponry are also featured throughout, as well passages devoted to describing how those weapons are made. The Iron Giant Ted Hughes In this childrens book written by a British poet laureate, a mysterious being constructed entirely of metal appears out of nowhere in the English countryside, ingesting farm equipment and scrap metal to sustain himself. He eventually becomes an accepted member of the community and ultimately saves the world. The book was The Iron Man. Materials Connections: Aside from the idea that the main character is made out of (and eats) metal, the key material moment in the story occurs when the metal giant wagers that he can withstand the heat of burning petroleum longer than an invading alien can endure the heat of the sun. They then duel to their respective melting points. to Finnish history and culture. Rune IX is devoted to telling the Origin of Iron, describing in detail the raw materials needed for iron making, the process itself, potential problems or challenges in making iron, and three different types of possible products (dark and ductile iron or malleable steel; iron lighter-colored or hardenable steel, and red and brittle iron or white cast iron). In addition, a pivotal, recurring element throughout the work is the Sampo, a magical artifact forged by the blacksmith god Seppo Ilmarinen, the Eternal Hammerer. a Hobbit, embarks on a treacherous quest to destroy the One Ring, an ancient weapon forged by the Dark Lord Sauron to conquer the world. Materials Connections: Much of the metal and metalworking in Lord of the Rings yields magical properties, with many of these artifacts playing a key role in advancing the action of the story. Mithril, mined by Dwarves in the mountains of Moria and fashioned into armor, is described as being light, but harder than tempered steel. Swords and knives forged by Elves glow blue in the presence of Orcs, a race of evil, humanoid creatures, while other blades have been enchanted to Ring itself is made of a mystical material that can only where it was forged. The Magic Engineer L.E. Modesitt, Jr. An installment in Modesitts Saga of Recluse series, The Magic Engineer follows the story of Dorin, a young magician who has been exiled for his interest in using forbidden knowledge to invent dangerous machines. Materials Connections: Dorin is a blacksmith with knowledge, even when it violates the rules. He generally infuses his iron working with magical qualities as he designs and builds his machines and weapons. advances that these experiences spawn, while Earth slowly succumbs to ecological disaster. Materials Connections: In particular, Red Mars, the sublimation and evaporation, processes that are used regularly in real-world materials science and engineering. Merchant of Venice William Shakespeare Portia is a beautiful, virtuous, wealthy woman being wooed by numerous suitors. Her fathers will stipulates she must marry the man who chooses a casket containing her picture from a set of three. Materials Connections: The three caskets are made from gold, silver, and lead. Each casket also its respective material. (The inscription on the gold casket, for instance, is Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.) The inscriptions and material characteristics of the caskets are the only clues that the suitors are given to win Portias hand. Mysterious Island Jules Verne Five prisoners of war escape captivity during the American Civil War in a hot air balloon, only to crash on an uncharted island. Fortunately, one member of the party is an engineer who is largely responsible for their survival. They are also aided by a reclusive Captain Nemo who now lives on the island following his adventures in the Verne novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Materials Connections: The brilliant engineer, Cyrus Smith, is the hero of the book as he cleverly deploys the materials available to him to make pottery, bricks, nitroglycerin, iron, a simple electric telegraph, and a seaworthy ship, among other things. Rutland Reindeer. Much of the book focuses on how he tries to convince the world the Reindeer be Poseidons Arrow Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler An evil millionaire plots to seize a secret prototype attack submarine to sell on the black market. He is also bent on monopolizing most of the worlds rare earth mining operations since the secret weapons that he plans to steal rely on rare earth elements. Materials Connections: The technical details related to rare earth elements are generally rooted in reality. The Mountain Pass rare earth mine in California and Mount Weld mine site in Australia are both accurately described, along with the extraction process. Ames National Laboratory gets a mention, too, as the new weapons systems. Profession Isaac Asimov the sports heroes of the day, with spectators paying to watch them compete at solving engineering problems in an arena setting. Materials Connection: The protagonist of this short story, George Platen, attends the Metallurgy Olympics to watch his best friend, Trevelyan compete. Trevelyan is categorized as a Metallurgist, Non-Ferrous. His Olympic dreams are brought to an end, unfortunately, when he performs poorly on a new device called the Beeman spectrograph. River God Wilbur Smith This tale of political intrigue, war, and romance in ancient Egypt is told from the viewpoint of Taita, a multi-talented slave who is highly adept at replicating and improving upon the design of weapons and chariots. Materials Connection: Many of the issues that Taita and other characters encounter in designing superior chariot wheels and more lethal bows are focused on the materials, with detailed descriptions of how to overcome save those in danger. Materials Connections: Sinclairs superpower is his ability to transform himself into different materials that can address a particular peril. For instance, he changes into steel to mend a broken train track and turns himself into a powerful magnet to free a trapped dog. Sublimation W.M. Goldberger Marvin Khorbin, a brilliant young scientist, is murdered and the case goes unsolved. A New York Times reporter, Jim Schaap, decides to investigate it as the subject of a book, compelling him to dig deeply into the culture of Materials Connections: Khorbin has pioneered the development of a fractional sublimation process that can be used for the separation of volatile metal chlorides. As suggested in the book, his research can potentially be used as the basis for a low-cost means of uranium enrichment. The novel is also replete with descriptions based on actual projects and technical advancements in minerals and metallurgical processing. The Vanished Diamond: Star of the South Jules Verne Victor Cyprien, a French mining engineer living in to chemistry to pursue a theory that diamonds can be synthesized in the laboratory. Materials Connection: The books title refers to the 243 carat blue diamond that Cyprien manages to create through a process that combines high temperature and high pressure. Informed Decision If you think its tough trying to choose a favorite work of materials fiction among 25 strong contenders, imagine the challenge that the ad hoc committee faced in working through a list of 62. What follows is their advice, based on experience, on coming up with your final selections: Garry Warren, Committee Chair Professor Emeritus, University of Alabama Consider the metallurgical content of the selection. For example, I would love to have selected the Treasure of the Sierra Madre for the final list, but that is more about gold fever than the metallurgy of gold. A plotline that does justice to the engineering is impressive, and gives recruiting ammunition to the profession. Thomas Battle Senior Metallurgist, Midrex Technologies Better start reading nowA few of these books would be perfect for long waits at airports or watching the snow fall while you sit in front of a fire. Although some of these books have very detailed online discussions, I dont think youll truly get the feel for them without reading them. Amy Clarke Scientist, Los Alamos National Laboratory I would suggest focusing on nominations that address how materials can impact the world. And, share this list with others. This countdown is a great way to engage readers and introduce them to materials science and engineering.

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The Race Is On: Cast Your Vote for the Top Ten Greatest Works of Materials Fiction, JOM, 2015, 286-291, DOI: 10.1007/s11837-014-1274-7