All of the substances on this list could, if transported back to some previous era, probably get you convicted of witchcraft. Hell, they kind of seem like witchcraft now. But, no, they're merely fascinating oddities of physics and chemistry. Which is exactly what a witch would say, but whatever.
5Glass Droplets That Are Stronger Than Steel ... Until They Explode
Here's a fascinating fact straight from the weird world of chemistry. Imagine you take some glass and hold a flame over it until some of it drips into a beaker of water. It will instantly cool and solidify into a teardrop-shaped glass droplet. That drop, the thick part of the glass, is one of the strongest substances known to man. You can hammer the shit out of it and it will just sit there, silently mocking you.
Think of it like a teeny, tiny version of your disapproving father.
So why don't we make just, like, everything out of this stuff? Because it has one massive weakness. It's that tail on the end of it -- if you snap the thinnest part with pliers or cutters or even with your fingers, the entire thing will just goddamn explode.
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Suddenly the two-meter exhaust port on the Death Star doesn't seem quite so unrealistic.
That is called a Prince Rupert's Drop. The pent-up explosive force is due to the cooling process. The molten glass shrinks when it cools, but when dipped in water, the outer layer solidifies first. The inner core then tries to shrink, but can't -- so it is locked in a perpetual state of pulling in on itself. You can't break the bulb part; you're just applying force in the direction it's already pulling. But, barely flick it at the weak end and you'll set off a chain reaction that will cause it to vaporize in a fraction of a second, instantly releasing all of the forces that have been pent up since its creation. Yeah, you'll want eye protection:
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Like discovering masturbation all over again.
4The Blackest Substance That Exists
In 2014, scientists created the blackest thing known to humankind. It's so black that while what we're about to show you will give you a small taste of its blackness, the reality is that you'd have to see it in person to get the full effect, because your monitor has no way to convey black on this level. It's so black, you can't even accurately imagine how black it is. Allow us to introduce Vantablack, the blackest black thing known to exist. Shine a light on it, and this shit just swallows it:
The color of every goth's wet dream.
Vantablack is a material made from carbon nanotubes, and is an acronym for "Vertically Aligned NanoTube Array ... Black." The substance has a light absorption of 0.035 percent, meaning that you can take a photo of it and whatever you've coated in it will look like a silhouette you've cut out in Photoshop. It's so black that contours are utterly invisible; if you coat one side of a sculpture with it, it looks like you've literally removed half of reality from the fabric of existence:
Presenting the only instance of blackface looking cool in 2016.
The secret is that carbon nanotubes are so tiny (about three atoms thick) that growing a whole forest of them traps incoming light like a labyrinth for photons. Shine a spotlight at it, and all that light winds up bouncing around until it gives up and gets absorbed into the material, so nothing comes back to hit your eyes.
It sounds like a lot of effort to go through to make something that's just super, super black, but the creators -- Surrey NanoSystems in England -- admit that the darkness of the material isn't its most important feature (you can't make a ninja costume out of it, for example, because it'll stand out from the shadows -- it's just too black). The big thing is that it's 10 times stronger than steel and better at absorbing heat than any other known material.
Still, the people most interested in this technology right now are artists, and the art community is frustrated that the company is being extremely tight-fisted about who it actually allows to use the stuff -- right now, they've only granted permission to sculptor Anish Kapoor and Lynx Body Spray (the UK version of Axe) for a weird commercial campaign they did in 2015. That is not a joke: