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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Liquid Crystals

The Science and Art of a Fluid Form

Distributed for Reaktion Books

Liquid Crystals

The Science and Art of a Fluid Form

While it is responsible for today’s abundance of flat screens—on televisions, computers, and mobile devices—most of us have only heard of it in the ubiquitous acronym, LCD, with little thought as to exactly what it is: liquid crystal. In this book, Esther Leslie enlightens us, offering an accessible and fascinating look at—not a substance, not a technology—but a wholly different phase of matter.
            As she explains, liquid crystal is a curious material phase that organizes a substance’s molecules in a crystalline form yet allows them to move fluidly like water. Observed since the nineteenth century, this phase has been a deep curiosity to science and, in more recent times, the key to a new era of media technology. In between that time, as Leslie shows, it has figured in cultural forms from Romantic landscape painting to snow globes, from mountaineering to eco-disasters, and from touchscreen devices to DNA. Expertly written but accessible, Liquid Crystals recounts the unheralded but hugely significant emergence of this unique form of matter.

288 pages | 10 color plates, 25 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Physical Sciences: History and Philosophy of Physical Sciences

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"The particular history being expounded here provides another perspective on Leslie¹s other histories such as those explored in Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry. . . . A particular clandestine story is being told, with fairy-tale intrigue and political urgency, because this story has hitherto been glossed over or forgotten: a story about German fascism and its postwar industrial legacy; about nature and the culture industry; a critique of the division of labor between artists and scientists. . . . Leslie’s book itself appears as a liquid crystalline incarnation with abstract sketches . . . preceding the flowing, rangy, roaming prose of her individual chapters. Just as liquid crystals pervade aspects of life, they inhere too in the prose form of Leslie’s liquid crystalline text."

Radical Philosophy

“Leslie drags us back to the screen, to the discovery of this uncomfortably contradictory state of matter, and to the vast range of implications it has for the way we imagine the materiality and abstraction of our world, from financial liquidity to Superman’s icy Fortress of Solitude. She raises the tantalizing prospect that liquid crystals are key not only to images but to perception and to our worldview: the governing metaphor through which we comprehend the rival claims of dialectics and flow. Erudite, lucid, enthralling, Leslie’s eclectically logical investigations transform our understanding of the historical generation of ideas and ways of thinking.”

Sean Cubitt, Goldsmiths, University of London

"Lucid and hallucinatory, this work is like a journey into the undead, affect-ridden material unconscious of modernity."

Anselm Franke

Table of Contents

Introduction: Slush
1 Flowing Crystals
2 Ice
3 Snowflakes
4 Blizzard
5 Meltwater
6 Liquid Crystal
7 Sea Ice
Conclusion: Permafrost, Liquid Assets

Photo Acknowledgements

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