Things in life tend to fall apart. Cars break down. Buildings fall into disrepair. Personal items deteriorate. Yet today’s researchers are exploiting newly understood properties of matter to program materials that physically sense, adapt, and fall together instead of apart. These materials open new directions for industrial innovation and challenge us to rethink the way we build and collaborate with our environment. Things Fall Together: A Guide to the New Materials Revolution (Princeton UP, 2021) is a provocative guide to this emerging, often mind-bending reality, presenting a bold vision for harnessing the intelligence embedded in the material world.
Drawing on his pioneering work on self-assembly and programmable material technologies, Skylar Tibbits lays out the core, frequently counterintuitive ideas and strategies that animate this new approach to design and innovation. From furniture that builds itself to shoes printed flat that jump into shape to islands that grow themselves, he describes how matter can compute and exhibit behaviors that we typically associate with biological organisms, and challenges our fundamental assumptions about what physical materials can do and how we can interact with them. Intelligent products today often rely on electronics, batteries, and complicated mechanisms. Tibbits offers a different approach, showing how we can design simple and elegant material intelligence that may one day animate and improve itself—and along the way help us build a more sustainable future.
Compelling and beautifully designed, Things Fall Together provides an insider’s perspective on the materials revolution that lies ahead, revealing the spectacular possibilities for designing active materials that can self-assemble, collaborate, and one day even evolve and design on their own.
Marshall Poe is the founder and editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.