Fun Stuff!
Visit the Exhibition
What is Materials Science?
Stuff for Families
Stuff for Teachers
Our Sponsors
Press Kit
Experience Strange Matter!
Press Releases
Press KitPress ReleasesPhotographs

It's Strange and It's Science!
July 30 , 2005

New Exhibit Opens Saturday, October 1, 2005

DURHAM, NC () - Ask anyone to name a field of scientific endeavor and they may mention medicine, physics, chemistry or even entomology. But materials science? Even if you prompt them, all you may get is a blank look.

Yet materials, and the science that creates and studies them, surround us in the modern world. In fact, in most suburban and city environments, there is far more man-made material than natural.

Strange Matter, the newest traveling exhibit at the Museum of Life and Science, Durham (October 1, 2005 - January 8, 2006) examines the always amazing and sometimes bizarre world of modern materials, providing a glimpse of where the future of materials research might take us.

Materials scientists are creating entirely new types of materials--such as buckyballs and nanotubes, very tiny spheres or cylinders made of carbon atoms. Aerogels are extremely lightweight porous materials made almost entirely of air! Nanotechnology is taking materials science into a new dimension, as scientists create new materials atom-by-atom and molecule-by-molecule, leading to properties and performance never before imagined.

Strange Matter ( October 1, 2005-January 8, 2006)

In the past, people used and changed materials by trial and error using large, visible scales. Modern materials scientists manipulate and change materials based on fundamental understandings of how the materials are put together, often on the invisibly tiny scale of atoms. So, how small is that? To make a speck as big as the period at the end of this sentence, you'd need trillions of atoms.

The “materials world” uncovers the surprising science behind the stuff we use every day. Space exploration and cardiac surgery are known for their use of advanced materials, but materials with amazing qualities are also part of everyday things, from basketball backboards and cell phones, to antennas, DVD players and golf clubs.

Strange Matter investigates the structure of exotic, as well as ordinary materials, and reveals what gives them their intriguing and remarkable properties:

Experience Pods

Each Experience Pod includes interactive exhibits, a micrograph of a close-up look at the material’s structure - revealing the hidden world of materials science, and info on just where to find some of these fascinating materials in your everyday life.

Amazing Magnetic Liquids

Magnetic liquids are liquids that can respond to magnets – this is done by suspending microscale or nanoscale magnetic particles in fluid. In this area, you can play with both. Using magnets, manipulate a pool of ferrofluid and make it ‘dance.’ This material is put to use in many diverse areas, from the operating room to your home entertainment centre.

Touch Table

Younger children can discover materials through hands-on experimentation. Put different materials under the lens of a microscope camera to see how they look magnified larger than life. Play tunes on a wooden xylophone and a xylophone of mixed materials – do similar materials sound the same? Tumble tubes to see how a solid material can flow like a liquid.


Get a look at materials from the macro (or naked-eye) scale down to the nano scale. Intricate structures are revealed. Find out how scientists “feel” atoms using atomic force microscopes. Be the materials scientist and get down to details.

Structures and Defects

Are defects always bad? It depends on the properties the materials scientist is trying to create. Play with a sheet of ball bearings and discover how this simple model can be used to investigate the role ‘grain boundaries’ play in creating stronger metals.


Amorphous Metals

Drop the ball bearings to see which metal plate gives the ball the most bounce. The ball that keeps going and going and going is bouncing on a plate made of Liquidmetal® alloy, a type of amorphous metal and, one of the world’s hardest materials. Discover what makes it so hard and how this metal can improve your golf game and help a patient in the operating room.

Material Science – Overview Video

How does materials science use atoms and molecules to design the “stuff” of our everyday lives? How has it changed human history and how does the performance of materials grow from their structure, properties and processing? In this video, meet materials scientists who bring it together.

Strange Matter is presented by the Materials Research Society. This exhibition and its tour are made possible by the generous support of the National Science Foundation, Alcan, Dow, Ford Motor Company Fund, Intel® Innovation in Education and the 3M Foundation.

The Museum of Life and Science’s mission is to create a place of lifelong learning where people from young child to senior citizen embrace science as a way of knowing about themselves, their community and their world.

Monday-Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm; Sunday Noon-5:00pm
General Admission: $9.50 adult, $7.50 children age 3-12;
$7.50 seniors 65+ or active military; free for children age two and younger.
Free for Durham County residents every Wednesday from 1:00-5:00pm


For more information, please contact:

Allison Savicz
Museum Marketing
(919) 220-5429 ext. 323

> View other Press Releases

Anita B. Miller
Manager, Marketing and Member Services, Materials Research Society

Tel: 724-779-3004 x551
Fax: 724-779-8313


Allison Savicz
Museum Marketing,
Museum of Life
and Science
Tel: 919.220.5429
ext. 323