Vulcanized matter: Its statistics, its physics, and its statistical physics
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As Goodyear discovered, when he first vulcanized rubber in 1839, a viscous liquid of macromolecules becomes an unusual, utterly random, solid, provided that enough chemical bonds are introduced between the molecules. Perhaps surprisingly, given the randomness of their architectures, solids formed by the vulcanization process exhibit a number of rather simple and universal features -- both structural and elastic -- that are not exhibited by the apparently simpler, crystalline solids. In this colloquium, I shall give an overview of current approaches to the physical properties of vulcanized matter and other random-network-forming media, paying special attention to their universal aspects.