Internal properties

The stuff of a thing can be different from what you expect. Take Silly Putty.

On first contact with it in grammar school, I thought the mushy lump was an eraser pounded out of shape. When I held it and rolled it out into a thin pencil, it felt like clay. But when I bunched it up in my fist and bounced it like a ball, I had found antigravity matter!

How could something so malleable get such bounce? I'm certain similar acts repeated by curious young hands all over the world caused more kids to become chemists than all the chemistry sets ever sold. The stuff pushed many young minds to think about internal properties, whether or not they knew what that meant.

We hope our cover story on the development of new materials from organic stuff will set readers thinking the way they did the first time they saw Silly Putty bounce.

Granted, an adult will necessarily be more utilitarian than a child. And an adult will assume a teleology: What can this stuff be used for, what's its purpose? The discovery, fabrication, and utilization of a renewable material from nature that does not degrade the environment is highly valued.

Of course, thinking about internal properties isn't limited to new materials. Radical cultural change can arise out of disparate, social combinations, challenging how things are supposed to work.

Events in the news: AOL merges with Time Warner; Vermont Supreme Court rules favorably on same sex marriage; young Cuban boy washes up on American soil as his mother drowns while fleeing Cuba.

The stuff of life, on first impression, can bounce like Silly Putty. All the more reason to constantly examine internal properties, material or otherwise.

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