Wikipedia lists glass as ‘a non-crystalline amorphous solid that is often transparent and has widespread practical, technological, and decorative usage in, for example, window panes, tableware, and optoelectronics’. Here’s a further list of some things that are made of glass:
Hold on. What was that last one? Smartphones? Are you kidding me? People drop smartphones all the time. They clutch them in sweaty, greasy fingers. Sure, the front of a phone has to be made of glass to make the output visible, that’s obvious. But the casing? Come on. It should be toughened plastic. Or lightweight metal. Like it always has been. Not glass.
Yes, I know that a material which at first seems counter-intuitive can turn out to be the logical choice. People once laughed at the idea of, say, ships being made of metal rather than the usual wood of Nelson’s time. In fact, here’s the above paragraph again, but this time from a nineteenth century copy of All Things Nautical:
Hold on. What was that last one? Ships? Are you kidding me? People rely on ships to float. They don’t want them sinking. Sure, the nails and brackets have to be made of metal to keep the vessel together, that’s obvious. But the entire hull? Come on. It should be planks of wood. Or bamboo. Like it always has been. Not metal.
It’s tempting to say that this trend toward glass began with Apple and the iPhone, that ‘Think Different’ led directly to ‘Break Different’ as a design philosophy. But the biggest culprit has perhaps been Sony, especially with its Xperia range of smartphones. It’s as though Sony’s design lab ran a recruitment campaign that stated ‘only those with a glass fetish need apply’.
And what exactly is Gorilla Glass? And who named it so? I guess the implication is that this toughened form of glass can withstand a pummelling from the fist of a half-ton gorilla without shattering.
This means your phone would be safe if you fell into the gorilla enclosure at Whipsnade zoo. It might even save your life. You could simply toss your phone at the approaching beast, using it as a distraction as you climbed up the knotted jumpers that the people above had thrown you. Then you’d get the gorilla darted by a zoo warden, and retrieve your undamaged phone.
Glass seems to be undergoing a revolution. It’s no longer the predictably fragile material that we got to know so well when kicking a ball around the streets as kids. Glass is slowly turning into something entirely different, something very un-glasslike.
Take the recently released Honor 8. This impressive phone uses Huawei’s own HiSilicon Kirin 950 chipset and octa-core processor with 4GBRAM and 32GB internal expandable storage, has a 1920 x 1080 pixel screen, and is powered by a 3,000mAh battery.
However, none of that matters. What phone these days doesn’t have specs like that? What matters is that the Honor 8’s back is made of fifteen layers of glass used to refract light in different directions. I’ll say that again. The back is made of fifteen layers of glass. Fifteen!
It’s as though those nineteenth-century ship builders had told an incredulous gathering of the Admiralty, ‘Actually, we’re going to make the hull from fifteen layers of iron. That’s right. Fifteen. But don’t worry. The life boats will still be wooden.’
The effect of these fifteen layers of glass is that the Honor 8 looks decidedly alien. In fact, it oozes alienness. Hold it in your hand and you half-expect it to shimmer and hum and throb, and then slip away into a another dimension. Faster-than-light star ships might one day have hulls looking like this.
In the future, glass might well become as tough as diamonds, as light as feathers and as commonplace as plastic was in the sixties (there’s already a bridge made of glass, in Zhangjiajie, China).
We might begin the day by slipping out from under our Kitten Glass bed covers, getting into our Horse Glass cars, and driving along Tortoise Glass roads to our offices in Mountain Goat Glass tower blocks. But I’m certain that such a world would never feel right for me.