The Journey from Magic to Science
Glass is one of the most transformative materials of all time, responsible for numerous innovations from windows to telescopes to fiber optics. Yet despite this storied history, Corning believes we are living in the Glass Age today. One reason is the progress we have made on our journey from magic to science.
For centuries, the Lycurgus Cup confounded observers with its mysterious ability to appear jade-green when lit from the front and ruby-red when lit from the inside. The cup was created in the 4th century, but people didn’t understand until relatively recently that the effect was caused by the presence of microscopic silver and gold particles. When monks used early spectacles as reading aids, they didn’t understand how the eye refracts light and focuses images. When Murano glassmakers created extraordinarily clear crystal in the 15th century by melting river stones with plant ash, they almost certainly didn’t understand how silica interacted with sodium and manganese. With no comprehensible explanation at hand, people believed that magic was behind those creations.
“Today, we understand how different formulation and fabrication techniques determine the atomic state and structure of a glass. That allows us to precisely control its mechanical, chemical, thermal, and optical properties,” explains Jeff Evenson, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for Corning Incorporated. “Our understanding of glass physics and chemistry also reduces our dependence on serendipity and time-consuming trial-and-error experimentation. We now use sophisticated modeling techniques to predict how a glass will behave. This knowledge has dramatically accelerated the design and development of new industrial glasses.”