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TECHNO-MATTER: THE MATERIALS BEHIND THE MARVELS by Fred Bortz (Twenty-first Century Books, Millbrook Press, 2001, ages 11-up) Full color, reinforced library binding, ISBN#0761314695.

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Introduction: Marvels and Materials

For as long as people have looked out into the Universe, they have imagined what it might be like to live on other worlds. Today we have gone beyond imagination to planning. When you are an adult, you may be one of the designers, builders, or inhabitants of a human colony on Mars. You may grow up to be one of the engineers, scientists, astronauts, or any of the many other important team members who take part in that great adventure.

To build and sustain a colony on Mars, the pioneers will have to learn to use Martian natural resources. It will be too difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to bring everything from Earth. They will need to create a breathable atmosphere. They will need to build systems to collect and use Martian water. They will need to create a Martian ecology based on bacteria, plants, and animals from Earth.

They will need to build factories of many kinds. What will they make first: vehicles, computers, sources of electricity, communication systems? All of those will be necessary, but they will probably have a few of those from Earth to get started. If they want to build more on Mars, they'll need to make metals from Martian ores. They'll need to make ceramics, glass, and materials for electronic and electrical devices from Martian sand and soil. They'll need to find ways of growing or manufacturing the raw materials for plastic and synthetic fabrics.

Before they can make their day-to-day items, their machines, and their "high technology" devices, they'll need to make the materials that will go into those things. They'll need far more to sustain human life on Mars than to get there. This book is the story not of the technology that will take us to Mars, but rather of the field of science and engineering that will keep us there. That field gets far less public attention than the sciences you might study in high school (biology, chemistry, and physics) or the best known branches of engineering that you might recognize as majors in college (civil, mechanical, electrical, and chemical).

This book is about materials science and engineering, a field so exciting and important that our grand technologies would not exist without it. Nature gives us natural resources. Materials scientists and engineers transform those resources into human-made materials. Perhaps people would pay more attention to those substances if they had a more attention-grabbing name. That's why we chose the title Techno-Matter, the Materials Behind the Marvels for this book.

Because of Materials Science and Engineering, more marvels of technology lie ahead. Whether you live all your life on Earth or some of it on other worlds, you will see astounding things. We can't predict exactly what those will be, but of this we can be certain: Human technology will rely, then as now, on substances that are better than those nature can ever make. They may be plastics, synthetic fabrics, metallic alloys, ceramics, semiconductors, superconductors, super-adhesives, super-magnets, or combinations of those marvelous materials -- or they may be substances we cannot yet even imagine.

Just remember this slogan when you're planning that trip to Mars. Techno-Matter: you can't leave home without it!

Text copyright 2001 by Alfred B. Bortz, all rights reserved

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