The only useful thing I've learned in my chemistry class is the science behind the wisdom of our grandmothers. Granny will tell you that cast iron heats up faster, is more efficient, and distributes the heat more evenly, eliminating hot and cool spots. It has to do with the specific heat capacity of cast iron in comparison to all these other "modern and improved" materials. Cast iron can't hold as much heat as the other metals before it must be transferred, which is what makes it more efficient and heat up to cooking temp faster. Because of the way they're built, with a thicker bottom for durability, they distribute that lesser heat much more evenly.
It takes much more heat energy to get a modern pan up to cooking temp, as steel and aluminum retain much more heat than iron (close to double, but not quite). These pans are usually built using much less material, in the case of steel because it's a more durable material to begin with and extra mass in metal just isn't needed for durability. These thinner pans that retain much more heat, also have a habit of releasing their higher amounts of retained heat very suddenly, sometimes causing accidental burning of a potentially very good meal.
Granny's wisdom explained through science, and retold by a redneck. Who'da thunk it?