Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dutch Tears

The first recorded example of tempered glass (1640s), these 'Dutch Tears' awesomely illustrate some key thermodynamic and physical concepts. The self-sustaining fracture waves have been measured at 1900m/s. (That's over 5 times the speed of sound!)

Prince Rupert, Duke of Bavaria, used to give them to his courtiers as a prank.


The candles flicker off jewels, lace and silk, and metallic embroidery as dancers move. A chassé opens the crowd and there is the King's cousin, brilliant soldier, artist and scientist and immensely powerful. He gestures toward you. After smoothing the silk mantua that your father could ill-afford, you're escorted forward. Your father's investment is coming to fruition; you've been noticed by royalty! Unheard platitudes are given, you smile modestly and then, then!, The duke gives you a lovely graceful droplet of glass. Oh! A gift! The honor! But as he slips it into your palm, it explodes into fine powder. You stare in horror at the dust sprinkled over the new pink ribboned rosette on your slipper. The shine, the glitter and noise has been muted. You're shamed! You hear nothing but the whisper of your future. "An old Maid is now..look'd on as the most calamitous Creature in nature." [Richard Allestree] But alas! Your senses slowly return and you become aware of the grins and snickers of the men surrounding you. The Prince brushes dust off the lace at his wrist, grins mischievously and walks away.

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