Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Surprisingly, science at a loss to fully explain glass

At the atomic level, “glass is indistinguishable from a liquid,” reports the NY Times, alas it’s perfectly solid. And scientists don’t know why that is. One expert told the Times, “It surprises most people that we still don’t understand this… We don’t understand why glass should be a solid and how it forms.”

Typically when a liquid cools it freezes: molecules assume a “neat crystal pattern” and hold still. But with glass, the molecules remain disorganized and continue to move so slowly that they’re “effectively not moving at all.” Glass molecules are stuck in a kind of purgatory, “trapped in a strange state between liquid and solid.”

Who cares? Why should anyone waste their time trying to figure this out? Well, are you afraid of needles? No. Well you probably don’t enjoy them. So you might be interested to know this: “Certain drugs, if they could be made in a stable glass structure instead of a crystalline form, would dissolve more quickly, allowing them to be taken orally instead of being injected.”

Utility aside, Pound360 is simply fascinated by everyday things that science can not fully explain. It’s nice to know there’s still some magic out there.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.