Material Matters

Metallurgy and Iran's atomic power

'Dawn of a new nuclear age’ was a headline in the Guardian on 22 March. Supporting evidence for this renaissance was the fact that a Masters course on nuclear technology...

Painting the Forth Bridge

‘I heard him then, for I had just Completed my design To keep the Menai Bridge from rust By boiling it in wine.'

Nuclear Iran – The controversial issue of Iran gaining nuclear power

A few months ago the Deputy Editor of an Iranian newspaper rang me to ask if, as Vice-Chair of British Pugwash, I agreed that, Iran, as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, had every right to construct nuclear power stations and related facilities for peaceful purposes.

Unweaving a rainbow – Transparent materials and refractive indices

It is axiomatic that nothing can move faster than light, but it is worth remembering that this is only true for propagations in vacuo. In all natural transparent materials the...

From light to dark – Exploring redshift and dark energy

In 1666 in a darkened room, Newton placed a glass prism in a sunbeam emanating from a small hole in a shutter and generated a rainbow on the opposite wall. He correctly, though controversially, concluded that the colours he saw were components of white light.

A question of life or death – Radiation caused by atmospheric testing and Jesuit involvement in seismic stations

Following my August column, I am introducing another mathematical anecdote. In 1920 in the Ukraine, the Russian physicist Igor Tamm was captured by a band of Nestor Makhno supporters who...

Bringing power to the people – The disorder surrounding Britain’s electrical power industry

I ended my last column by asking how it came about that our electrical power industry, as it evolved in the decade and a half before and after the turn...

A shocking revelation – The conflict between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse

‘Pylons, those pillars Bare like nude, giant girls that have no secrets'

The numbers game – Degrees of separation and mathematical quirks

My article in the April 2007 issue of Materials World on the average number of acquaintances between any two random individuals has stimulated more interest than anything I have written...


Material Matters was the regular Materials World column on topical issues, established by and written for many years by Jack Harris until he passed away in February 2009. From June 2010 it was written by Craig Durham CEng MIMMM, a Senior Production Engineer working in the upstream oil and gas industry and Past President of the Mining Institute of Scotland.