When does silly putty break like a piece of glass? Go here to watch the video!
He dates his interest in materials to his purchase, as a schoolboy, of a clear, acrylic ruler advertised as shatterproof. When the ruler shattered into a hundred pieces – on being smacked against the skull of a schoolyard bully – Miodownik was shocked: “I was so appalled by this I went back to the newsagent with the evidence and confronted them with it. They said, ‘You can have another one,’ but I had to say, ‘No! The point is it’s not shatterproof. You’ve either got to change the name or get rid of the whole stock!’”
The shop owners couldn’t be bothered. “But I cared. And I wanted to know how you could make a shatterproof ruler. What was shattering anyway? Why do some things shatter and others don’t?” His obsession led him to a PhD in turbine jet-engine alloys at Oxford University and on to his present role as head of the Materials Research Group at King’s.