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Explain the nature of glass.

Explain the nature of glass.

Grade:Upto college level

1 Answers

Suraj Prasad IIT Patna
askIITians Faculty 286 Points
6 years ago
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.




Get Science News From The New York Times »Bloomberg News, top, and Keystone/CorbisCOMPLEX Glass in sheet and molten forms. Glass transition differs from usual phase transition.

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.”

Philip W. Anderson, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist at Princeton, wrote in 1995: “The deepest and most interesting unsolved problem in solid state theory is probably the theory of the nature of glass and the glass transition.”

He added, “This could be the next breakthrough in the coming decade.”

Thirteen years later, scientists still disagree, with some vehemence, about the nature of glass.

Peter G. Wolynes, a professor of chemistry at the University of California, San Diego, thinks he essentially solved the glass problem two decades ago based on ideas of what glass would look like if cooled infinitely slowly. “I think we have a very good constructive theory of that these days,” Dr. Wolynes said. “Many people tell me this is very contentious. I disagree violently with them.”

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