Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Being a know-it-all just keeps getting harder...

Shoot - I had used this pretentious bit of trivia for years...
It is well known that panes of stained glass in old European churches are thicker at the bottom because glass is a slow-moving liquid that flows downward over centuries.

Well known, but wrong. Medieval stained glass makers were simply unable to make perfectly flat panes, and the windows were just as unevenly thick when new.

The tale contains a grain of truth about glass resembling a liquid, however. The arrangement of atoms and molecules in glass is indistinguishable from that of a liquid. But how can a liquid be as strikingly hard as glass?

“They’re the thickest and gooiest of liquids and the most disordered and structureless of rigid solids,” said Peter Harrowell, a professor of chemistry at the University of Sydney in Australia, speaking of glasses, which can be formed from different raw materials. “They sit right at this really profound sort of puzzle.” [More]
It was such a quaint, arcane tidbit of information, which left the impression of deep knowledge.  Sort of like obscure facts commodity market gurus leverage to suggest thorough understanding of essentially unknowable processes.  Then stupid ol' science had to butt in.

I know - I'll shoot for being a "know-it-some".

1 comment:

threecollie said...

Dang it! Another bubble burst. Now I have to admit to my kids that I too was wrong all these years. And I leaned that in college for Pete's sake!