• The imaginative and exciting use of these materials; and
• The birth of new physics based on the theme of softness, malleability, and fragility.
It is only through basic research, rather than goal-driven manipulations of materials, that the essential connections between structure and function will emerge. Practical applications, whose development is often easier to support, will flow more easily once basic connections between structure and function have been elaborated. This chapter argues for research that, at its best, celebrates the complexities of the source material while taxing scientists' ingenuity to knead those complexities into tractable and relevant form.
There are abundant new industrial and medical products based on the softness and fluidity of materials. In fact, there have been uses from ancient times. The softness of rubber was enjoyed in pre-Columbian American ballgames. Emulsions and foams such as mousse and hollandaise sauce have long been used in food preparation. Today's new products are often discovered by ingenious trial and error rather than by systematic theory and physical understanding (see Box 5.1). The experience of practical innovation becomes a source of information to learn the general features of these soft materials.
Understanding inevitably leads to practical use, but it can take decades to progress from initial scientific query and curiosity to practical application. From the invention of the transistor to the first useful integrated circuits took about 20 years. From the realization that DNA stores the genetic code to the beginnings of a viable biotechnology industry took even longer.
With soft materials there are several unusual challenges to be recognized. Our effort to see what is common and mutually constructive in working with diverse soft materials immediately encounters cultural differences between physicists, engineers, and biologists. Particularly at the intersection between biology and physics, barriers to learning from each other are daunting. More than in any other chapter of this report, the primary emphasis here is on educational needs and opportunities for students and professionals. Following are a few examples of learning opportunities that would cost little compared to the large potential rewards:
• Summer schools,
• "Bilingual" survey texts and tutorials,
• Continuing education,
• Industry-academic visitation and collaboration,
• Grant programs to encourage truly basic research, and
• Graduate training in chemistry, physics, and biology.
Education must be deep as well as broad; it must obviate departmental boundaries. Nothing is more challenging than the creation of optimal modes of training