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October 20th, 2009
Back in 1970, American sociologist and futurologist Alvin Toffler wrote a book called Future Shock. Its thesis was both simple and profound: Not only was the world changing, it was changing at an accelerating rate.
Every year since the book appeared, the truth of its argument has been evident. Change is piled upon change year by year, month by month, week by week.
Back then, construction materials were pretty much the same as they had been 10 or 20 or 30 years before. Now, there is a whole new thing called materials science, and it deals with not only construction materials, but with materials of all kinds.
Many of them involve the use of the even newer group of scientific disciplines that we call nanoscience — the science of the super-small.
Scarcely a week goes by now without three or four articles about nanotechnology in building materials appearing on my computer screen.
One of the most recent involves promising a new idea being developed by a group of students. It isn't ready for the market yet, but watch for it.
Students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with roofing tiles that turn from black to white and back again as temperatures vary.
On hot days, when you want heat reflected away from your house, they would be white. Then, as temperatures drop and you want some of the sun's heat absorbed by your house, the tiles turn black.
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