Materials might seem mundane to some people, but in actual fact mankind, as a whole, has been fascinated with them for centuries.
No really, it’s true.
Still not sure? Well, scientists rigorously classify all materials and elements, separating them according to things like properties, and there’s always a huge buzz around the discovery of a new material. Sounds like ‘fascination’ to us.
Yes, we know; that’s the world of science. That’s not the ‘real’ world. Well, the real world is all about materials too. Construction professionals worry about materials all of the time. The best suited materials have to be sourced for each project, and opportunities to discuss ‘materials of the future’ are always in the headlines. You only have to look at the current focus upon bringing timber buildings back into our cities to see that materials have a huge role to play.
However, isn’t all of that a bit…well…boring? Well, it might be of technical or niche interest, but not necessarily boring. Materials actually pop up in some very informal and, dare we say, ‘trendy’ ways as well, and one of these ways must surely be the obsession with fictional materials that we see in our media.
If you’ve never thought about it, fictional materials are everywhere and in everything. Can’t think of any? Here’s a list of some of our favourites:
If there’s one thing that you can rely on at present, it’s that a new superhero film is never too many months away. Whether it’s Marvel or DC, the once ‘geeky’ adventures of superheroes are now rolling in, and are also enjoying mainstream popularity. If there’s another thing you can bank on too, it’s the fact that they’ll be stuffed full of fictional materials, like Adamantium, for example.
If you’ve been hiding yourself away for the last decade or so, and have yet to come across the X-Men film saga, then you may not recognise Adamantium, but otherwise you’ll probably think of ‘Wolverine’ pretty quickly. Best known these days for being played by Hugh Jackman, Wolverine’s entire skeleton (not to mention his claws) is coated with the indestructible metal alloy ‘Adamantium’. We think it’d be great for some heavy-duty building work, but that might just be us…
Be honest, how many of you thought of ‘Kryptonite’ the instant that we mentioned fictional materials. We’re guessing a lot. Well, a few of you. OK, at least one, but you get the point; Kryptonite – the material that holds the power to vanquish the otherwise indomitable Superman – is one of the most instantly memorable of all fictional materials.
Supposedly created during the destruction of Superman’s home planet (Krypton… who saw that coming???), this crystalline material has been portrayed in various colours over the years, but you’ve probably come across it in a fetching green colour. With the new Batman Vs Superman film on the horizon – not to mention Justice League – there’s plenty of scope to encounter Kryptonite again fairly soon. We have to admit, we’re not sure how we could use this material. Any suggestions?
Anyone who has immersed themselves in the works of J.R.R Tolkien should be familiar with ‘Mithril’, but of course the film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have brought this material to a much wider audience. For your information, Mithril is also known as ‘Moria Silver’ (Moria being the place where it’s mined) or ‘True Silver’, and it’s perhaps best described by Bilbo in The Fellowship of the Ring as being ‘light as a feather, and as hard as dragon scales’.
Actually, Mithril (or sometimes ‘Mythril) pops up all over everywhere these days. It’s running amok in the world of Warhammer, and is in video games such as the Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts and Elder Scrolls series, but as far as we know good ol’ Mr Tolkien was the first to describe it. Given that Gandalf describes a single Mithril coat of mail as worth ‘more than the value of the Shire’ (a sort of ‘town’ for Hobbits, in case you haven’t read the books…in which case go and do so…now), we’re thinking that Mithril jewellery would go down well in the modern world.
We’re starting to run out of space here, but we still have so much to say about fictional materials! In brief, here’s a few more examples before we get herded back to our box:
Seen the Captain America films? Ever wondered just how the said Captain’s shield allows him to deflect the hammer of the God of Thunder, block seemingly all gunfire, slash through metal bars and fall out of a 15-storey building unharmed? Because it’s made of Vibranium, of course! Therefore, it absorbs all vibration and does other funky stuff too. Admit it. You knew.
Minecraft, eh? What’s all that about? Well, we’re not experts, but plenty of people out there are. As far as we can gather, it’s a game that lets you build whole environments out of small textured cubes. We should give it a try sometime. One of the blocks is also called a Nether Brick; a brick which handily allows you to build in the ominously named ‘The Nether’, in view of the fact that it’s non-flammable and immune to ‘Ghast fireballs’. Whatever they are.
We’ve just heard about this. Technically this exists in real life. According to Wikipedia, it’s a term that’s used when you’re theoretically considering a material that’s perfect to meet your every need, except for the small drawback that it doesn’t actually exist. So…the concept is real…but the material isn’t…yeah, we’re confused too.
To finish with, we’ll briefly touch upon one final material.
It’s called Vantablack, and it’s the blackest material that’s ever been.
It absorbs nearly all light around it. 99.6% of it in fact.
As well as making things like telescopes super-sensitive, it’s also great for making military equipment ‘invisible’ (sort of).
By the way…you remember we were rambling on about the ‘real world’ at the beginning of this article? Did we mention that this ‘Vantablack’ is a real thing? Despite sounding like something that would be at home alongside Vibranium in the latest adventures of Captain America, this material was discovered by US scientists relatively recently. So yeah, the next time you stumble across some fascinating ‘wonder material’ in the world of fiction, spare a thought for the real world materials that we have. They really aren’t too shabby. Who knows, in a few years time, perhaps some of these fictional materials will have real world equivalents.
Hey, we can dream right?