In a liquid crystal watch, the molecules contained within a thin film of the screen are reorientated each second by extremely weak electrical signals. Here is a fine example of soft matter: molecular systems giving a strong response to a very weak command signal. They can be found almost everywhere. Soft magnetic materials used in transformers exhibit a strong magnetic moment under the action of a weak magnetic field. Take a completely different domain: gelatin, formed from col- lagen fibres dissolved in hot water. When we cool below 37 DegreesC, gelation occurs, the chains joining up at various points to form a loose and highly deformable network. This is a natural example of soft matter. Going further, rather than consider a whole network, we could take a single chain of flexible polymer, such as polyoxyethylene [POE = (CH CH O)N, 2 2 5 where N rv 10 ], for example, in water. Such a chain is fragile and may break under flow. Even though hydrodynamic forces are very weak on the molecular scale, their cumulated effect may be significant. Think of a rope pulled from both ends by two groups of children. Even if each girl and boy cannot pull very hard, the rope can be broken when there are enough children pulling.
Publisher: Springer-Verlag Berlin and Heidelberg GmbH & Co. KG
Number of pages: 320
Weight: 1230 g
Dimensions: 270 x 193 x 23 mm
Edition: 1999 ed.
"I think that in these days when the number of students in physics and chemistry is declining steadily, it is necessary to adapt the high school curricula, leave out part of the physics of past centuries, and present more modern topics to young people. I would like to suggest that soft matter physics can be one of these subjects. This subject is linked with many phenomena in the real world, there are beautiful and simple experiments that can be performed, the mathematics to describe these systems is in itself fascinating (I already mentioned fractals, but some theories that describes the shapes of membranes and vesicles are cousins of those used in string theory) and finally, these products are of high technological value. This book is a rich source of inspiration for starting such a course."
Physicalia, 2000/36/3 (..) The book design is catching with instructive and inspiring figures, which are often in colour and are of outstanding quality. (...) It awakes a love for the themes covered. It is a beautiful and nobly designed book, written with much didactiv commitment.
Translated from the review of K. Stierstadt, Physikalische Blatter, 2001, 57, 5.