Inside the basement of King's College London's engineering department, Mark Miodownik curates a "cabinet of curiosities" for materials scientists. He started the collection in 2003 after noticing that his colleagues trashed all kinds of unusual materials at the end of their research projects. From News@Nature:
His collection now includes more than 300 samples, including artificial skin made of rubber composites, and a material known as a superslurper that absorbs 400 times its own weight in water....Link
Miodownik trawls the globe in search of additions to his collection. On a recent trip to Australia, he found himself in the remote uranium-mining town of Broken Hill in New South Wales. He started hunting through antique shops there to find a special type of glass.
Miodownik explains that in the early twentieth century people thought that radioactive materials had beneficial health properties. For this reason, they manufactured glassware containing uranium, especially in places such as Broken Hill that had an abundance of the element.
In the Australian antique shops, Miodownik flashed an ultraviolet light on various glass pieces to find one that glowed, a sign that it contained uranium. When he found a bowl that did just that (pictured here), he brought it back to London and added it to the library.
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.