Episode 2.05: The Future Is Clear, Full Script

As an experiment, I’m posting the full script for Episode 2.05, “The Future is Clear.” The conventional wisdom in the podcasting business is that posting full scripts of episodes is a good SEO move. That stands for Search Engine Optimization. In other words, if I post the full script, Google and other search engines might rank it highly it when people are searching for information about Corning, or Josh Simpson, or the MIT Glass Lab. I’ve never seen data to support this belief, but why not give it a try?

Soonish Episode 2.05: The Future Is Clear

Published February 17, 2018

Full show notes here.

[Sound of Corning NY steam whistle]

That… is the sound of the past. And the future. It’s the old steam whistle that still goes off four times a day in the town of Corning in upstate New York, home to Corning Incorporated.

Decades ago the company invented famous brands of glass that you probably have in your own kitchen, like Pyrex and Corningware. And then it reinvented itself as a maker of glass for displays and automobiles and fiber optic cable. And it went on to create the Gorilla Glass that makes the screen of your smartphone virtually unscratchable and really hard to break.

Lori Hamilton: it's been an amazing invention…gorilla is on more than 5 billion devices .

In this episode we’ll go to Corning, to explore the idea that glass will turn up in even more places in the near future. Scientists at Corning think Gorilla Glass and its descendents could be used to turn practically every surface into a display, from our refrigerators to the dashboards of our cars.

Marvin Bolt: Glass has a bright future because glass has these incredible properties to be adapted to so many different uses.

Jane Cook: Building that structure atom by atom first on a computer…that capability to engineer glass at that level is quite new.

Lori Hamilton: it's part of Corning culture in that we haven't identified, "This is off limits" or this is the no go space because I think we want to challenge ourselves to see why not glass?

Of course, you know what they say about people who live in glass houses. They don’t have anywhere to hide.

Helen Lee: I would never want to live in a place that was all glass….That sounds horrible. I guess I am more interested in glass being used where it matters and when it should should be used.

Glass has been part of our civilization for thousands of years, but it turns out that it still has a few surprises left in it. In every generation a new batch of artists and engineers falls under its spell. And they’re thinking hard about where glass should fit into our lives in the future. Even if that future isn’t yet … crystal clear.

That’s all coming up. Right now.

[Soonish theme]

I’m Wade Roush. And this…is Soonish.

It’s a podcast from the high-tech hub of Boston. Where we ask what the world of tomorrow will look like, and how each of us can make it our own. Because the future is shaped by technology. But technology is shaped by us.

[Sound from George Rhoads Marble Machine]

This is the Corning Museum of Glass. Like any self-respecting museum about science or art, it’s got one of those audio-kinetic sculptures where marbles roll around on tracks and skitter across noisemakers.

The Marble Machine fits in at the Corning Museum because, well, if you’re like me, marbles were the first glass objects you played with as a kid.

But the Museum is here partly to remind us that there so many OTHER uses for glass.

Right above the Marble Machine is the biggest object in the whole museum. It’s a huge disk of Pyrex glass that was intended to be the primary mirror for the 200-inch Hale Telescope at the Caltech’s Palomar Observatory in California.

The Hale was designed to be the largest telescope in the world, able to see farther into space than ever before. It was basically the Hubble Space Telescope of its day. Which meant Caltech needed the largest piece of glass ever made.

On March 25, 1934, workers at Corning spent 10 hours pouring 20 tons of molten glass into the mold for the mirror.

And then just about everything went wrong. The mold broke. The glass was allowed to cool off too quickly, which led to cracks. And bubbles inside the glass created pockmarks on the surface.

Jane Cook: That first attempt to make that object didn't work. On many levels.

This is Jane Cook. She’s the chief scientist at the Corning Museum.

Jane Cook: The formulation was wrong. The melting process. The mold was wrong. But in really wonderful scientific fashion…they turned the failure into a success that informed the next iteration of that attempt to make this gigantic piece of glass.

On the second try, nine months later, Corning poured the glass for a second mirror. And this time they let it cool for 10 whole months.

Marvin Bolt: The first effort to create this was at the very edge of what was possible.

Marvin Bolt is the museum’s curator of science and technology.

Marvin Bolt: And as it turns out the first attempt it wasn't really possible but in learning why it failed it was possible to make the second version which turns out to be the largest telescope in the world throughout the 20th century. And so…You're always trying to tweak the properties of glass to do things that hadn't been done before….And they don't always work the first time or the second time or sometimes the tenth time.

What the Corning engineers were learning was something that glassblowers have known for thousands of years. It’s that glass sort of has a mind of its own.

One glass maker put it to me this way: You don’t tell glass what to do. You listen to what it wants to do.

And there’s another strange thing about glass. Sometimes its job is to disappear.

Marvin Bolt: In a way you don't want glass to be visible because if it's too visible, it's sort of like a referee in a in a sporting event right. You don't want to see the referee. I mean that's what you're there for and in many cases the glass isn't there to be seen explicitly. It's to enable an experience to happen. You don't want the wind blowing through your house or something like that.

But other times glass is meant to be seen. It doesn’t just transmit light. It catches it and transmutes it in a way that our monkey brains find irresistible. I mean, there’s a reason we have so many fairy tales about crystal balls and glass slippers and magic mirrors.

Marvin Bolt: When people come to the museum they expect to be here oh maybe half an hour an hour. I mean what could there possibly be that's interesting about glass right. I mean glass is glass. Well we find that they not only stay for four hours on average but they come back a second day because they're bewitched

Now, part of the magic of the Corning museum is that it’s not just a science museum or a history museum. It’s also got a massive collection of art and artifacts made from glass, starting with ancient Egypt glassmakers 3500 years ago and going all the way up to contemporary studio glass.

Lori Hamilton: I think this linkage between art and technology for glass is quite compelling….

This is Lori Hamilton, the director of commercial technology for glass technologies division of Corning Incorporated.

Lori Hamilton: We have had a number of workshops where we bring our customers for consumer electronics or other applications and spend time with them at the glass museum looking at Glass designs what glass can do as a way to have them think not only about the technical attributes of glass …but how can glass be incorporated into the design?

Later in the show we’ll spend more time talking with Lori Hamilton about the future of glass. But right now I want to go deeper into this connection between the technology of glass and the art of glass. Because I I’m interested in this special place glass occupies in our culture, as a material that’s both incredibly useful and incredibly beautiful.

And one good place to start is in an actual glassblowing studio.

[Sound of furnaces in Josh Simposon's studio]

Josh Simpson: If you walked into this studio without knowing what was going on here you would definitely think that this was some kind of very strange science, with all the combustion all the tubes the blowers the fans. The weird looking boxes that are at a thousand degrees and. Everything else. Every now and then somebody will come in here that's just delivering something and they just look around and it's like you know perfectly well they think that you're doing you know. Recombinant DNA on an aliens or something.

Meet Josh Simpson. He’s been running this studio in Shelburne Falls in Western Massachusetts since 1976. And he’s not doing recombinant DNA on aliens. He uses the molten glass from his furnaces to make a huge variety of bowls and vases and platters.

He also makes these mesmerizing glass spheres that he calls planets. But today Simpson isn’t making planets. With his assistant Jay Brown, he’s making platters, and he’s cooked up several different experimental formulas of glass that he wants to swirl together to see if he can create a pattern like the stellar nebula photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Josh Simpson: So there are three furnaces where I melt glass. The largest one over there on the right is. A giant furnace of about 400 pounds of molten liquid glass. And. The next one is a silver glass. …and the third furnace is my Heisenberg furnace it's the experimental furnace where there are actually three crucibles inside. That allow me to do a new formulation of. Usually a silver or gold metal glass. And experiment every week.

Wade: And why do you call that the Heisenberg furnace.

Josh Simpson: Oh, well, truthfully there are there are…there's a whole group of glass gods out in the world and they're all malevolent. They they all try their very best to mess you up ... I mean glass should be so perfect and so simple. It's not. There are sometimes hundreds of steps from the formulation of a glass to the finished. Object that I make. One mistake in any of those and it's death. And so it's called the Heisenberg furnace is that we have a photograph of Werner Heisenberg there because of his uncertainty principle which of course doesn't really refer to glass but we like it.

Josh Simpson: I'm next going to go over to my bench. OK. So. I've gathered. Gather molten liquid glass on the end of my blowpipe. And now I'm just shaping it a little bit with a block of wood. Now I'm blowing. And. I don't know if you can see that there is this is an embryo platter.

Josh Simpson: So I have to build up layer after layer of glass. And so. I have. The first gather with a little bubble and now I'm going to gather another gather on top of that.

Wade: OK. Looks like you've got about two or three times as much that time.

Josh Simpson: Yes that's exactly right. The larger the first gather the more glass I can take on the second gather. …In this case I'm taking two gathers of clear. And the next gather that I'll take will be out of my experimental Heisenberg furnace. The next step will be to gather experimental glass over this.

Wade: OK. You're going up to the Heisenberg furnace. I have to be careful not to melt the styrofoam wind cover on my microphone.

Josh Simpson: But it is a great sound. In mean, if you care about your art, you should be willing to melt a microphone now and then.

Wade: Once in a while. Yeah I think so.

Josh Simpson: I'm about to take a pretty significant gather of clear glass over the whole thing….. The opening of the furnace. [Furnace sound here including low rumble] Looked. Like I've got. The glass on it. [Great sound here of water sizzling on the hot blowpipe] So I'm just turning the glass. In this. Block of wood. And. I'm actually. Trying to shape it. And thin it. Make it thinner near the blowpipe. Eventually I have to get this platter off the blowpipe. And I'm just making a line where that where I will eventually propagate a crack and shatter the glass away from the blowpipe.

Josh Simpson: Then. I have to break it off. And there’s no other way to do this, I just have to hit it with hammer. Ready. Here we go.

[hammer sound]

Josh Simpson: This failed, Jay.

Wade: Uh oh.

Josh Simpson: OK, the whole piece cracked

Wade: The whole thing's a dud.

Josh Simpson: The whole thing. There's no way to save this….What happened was when I propagated that crack it it it didn't go. It didn't crack perfectly around. It also cracked down into the body of this piece and so. There's this hole. It basically. Cracked. Halfway down. And. There's just no recovery from that.

Wade: So the gods of glass were not smiling this morning.

Josh Simpson: I mean. Yeah they're not friendly. But I'd still like to see what it looks, it would have looked like….I'm going to take my scissors anyway and shear this lip. So we can see what what this glass did what the experimental glass did. And. Then we just have to start another one.

And that’s exactly what Josh did. I watched him and Jay repeat all the same steps over the next 45 minutes until he wound up with a beautiful platter more than two feet across, with eddies of blue and red and magenta.

Josh put the platter into the annealing oven so that it could gradually cool down to room temperature. And we went into a quieter part of the studio so we could talk about his 45 years as a glassblower.

Wade: Can you pinpoint the moment where you realized that you could use glass to evoke these feelings or images of space.

Josh Simpson: You know that's a great question because I can. The first time that I realized that I could use glass in a way that was not functional or utilitarian was actually at the Shelburne Falls post-office. And I went in one morning to just to mail a package and there was a guy I don't actually I didn't actually know his name but he had purchased some wine goblets from me that had my what I call the New Mexico patterned sky pattern on them…I walked in and he said you know last night I was drinking out of your wine goblets and suddenly we weren't drinking out of your goblets at all. We were drinking out of the sky. I thought, Oh my goodness…How much had he been drinking you know. But it did make me suddenly realize that something as functional and utilitarian and and plain as wine goblet could actually say much more than its function.

Wade: I want to ask a question about glass as a material like. It's so old. We've been using it for so long and yet it's also such an important part of so many modern inventions in modern environments. There's plenty of glass on the space station right. It's probably very special glass but it's still glass. So it's a very modern material. And it's also an ancient material and I wonder whether you think of it as like it's kind of a miraculous material in a way.

Josh Simpson: Glass is totally miraculous. There are as many recipes for glass making as there are for all the breads cookies cakes in the in the world glass… I can …melt silver directly into the glass surface while it's molten and it creates some characteristic effects that that no one had figured out how to do. …I call it New Mexico glass because it is I had an idealized version of what the sky was like in New Mexico at night. …I've learned how to do little esoteric things like that which have meant a big deal to me because it allowed me to make platters and wine goblets and bowls that look different than anything anybody else makes.

Peter Houk: The thing about Josh is that he's really focused for decades on building.

This is Peter Houk, another master glassblower based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I asked him about Simpson’s work during a visit to the MIT Glass Lab, which Houk directs.

Peter Houk: Just what he's discovered about mixing his own colors and the way the colors interact. The way to introduce decoration and patterns and sometimes bubble patterns and create optical effects by having lots of glass magnify all that…It's been a journey for him and I respect that he's put so much into really understanding that area.

But no amount of understanding can spare you from the anger of the glass gods. Remember that second space-nebula platter that I watched Josh finish? The day after I visited, Josh emailed to say that platter also shattered while it was still cooling down in the annealing oven. But the third platter Josh made that day came out beautifully. So maybe Heisenberg was talking about glass after all.

Since we’re doing physics jokes, this might be a good moment to ask what glass actually is.

Chemically, it’s pretty simple. The main ingredient is silica, or silicon dioxide, which we get mainly from sand. Window glass has extra components like soda and lime. Pyrex has additives like boron trioxide that keep it more stable at different temperatures.

But what all those compounds actually do when you melt them together is harder to explain. Every time I asked the experts for more detail, I got a slightly different answer.

Josh Simpson: Glass is an alchemic blend of sand and metallic oxides combined with extraordinary blinding heat.

Peter Houk: It's an amorphous material. We don't, you can never predict where a crack will go when you when you crack glass. It could go in an infinite number of directions whereas with metal it fails along a boundary line because of its crystalline structure. Glass doesn't do that. It's a strange and different material.

Jane Cook: They wouldn't use the term amorphous…the question comes down to that glass isn't uniformly random. Glass is incredibly rare. There's a special combination of atoms that allow for it to be disordered on a larger scale but incredibly ordered still at the local scale.

Marvin Bolt: Glass is a frustrated Crystal. It's a material that wants to crystallise but you cool it quickly enough so that it can't quite crystallize and so you have different kinds of structures that are almost crystal like but they don't replicate over a large scale and that gives glass its interesting properties. So, the fact that it’s transparent. If glass wasn’t transparent, we wouldn’t have it, because that’s why we’ve been using it for so long.

Those definitions came from Josh Simpson, Peter Houk, Jane Cook, and Marv Bolt.

One thing they all agree on is that glass is not a liquid. There’s a notion you hear sometimes that glass flows, just very slowly. But it’s a myth. If you see a really old window pane that seems thicker at the bottom, it’s not because the glass flowed downward. It’s because it was made that way.

But the fact that glass is a liquid when it’s hot has some really interesting consequences.

First off, it means glassblowers have to move fast and work together, the way I saw Josh Simpson and Jay Brown working together. In fact, that’s one of the reasons MIT has a glass lab.

Peter Houk: MIT had a problem graduating students who were very good individualistically but they didn't work well with others always. And glassblowing, you have to work with others. You can't blow glass unless you can work with an assistant and be clear with them about what you need and come up with a plan and convey the plan to them and articulate you know what the steps are and if things start to go south you have to improvise and not lose your cool.

Second, glassblowers say there’s something a little bit meditative about that whole process. Real glassblowing Jedis tend to get into a state of, for lack of a better word, flow.

Peter Houk: It demands great focus, glassblowing does. You cannot do it if you're not totally focused on it. If you lose your sense of heat timing in the kind of history of heat through a piece you'll lose the piece or you'll lose control of the shape of the piece so it demands a kind of focus that I think some people find really relaxing and therapeutic.

And finally, every piece of glass has to be bent and blown and spun into its final shape. Which means that if you know what you’re looking for, you can look at a finished piece of glass and kind of read the motions that went into making it.

Helen Lee: I think of it as a movement based practice.

This is Helen Lee, the director of the glass lab at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Helen Lee: Like, to see a historical vessel and replicate it as a technical exercise in some ways is an act of, reenacting a history of someone else's body movements at some point in time making that vessel.

Now, I love this idea. It means that a piece of glass is basically a frozen story about the way somebody directed the flow of that glass when it was molten.

And there’s one new way of making glass objects where those movements are controlled by a computer, rather than a human glassblower. That’s the 3D printing of glass.

It’s a technology that got its start right inside the MIT Glass Lab. Peter Houk tells the story.

Peter Houk: So five or six years ago we had a student a mechanical engineering student named Mike Stern…He came as a freshman. He stayed all four years and through graduate school. He became one of our instructors and a really good glassblower and his MechE specialty was additive manufacturing.  [00:36:12] And one day he came up to me and said Do you think it would be possible to build a 3D printer that prints hot glass, like furnace hot glass? And my first response was like Are you crazy. That's that would be insanely hard to do. And he said Well. But not impossible right. Maybe we could do that. So you know we kept talking about it and finally he met a group of students in the media lab with Neri Oxman who said this is a cool idea. And one of them wanted to do a master's thesis on it. Neri found some funding. And the thing got built. It got built over there in the media lab and then it got tested in the glass lab over a couple of years until we were 3-D printing hot glass. So version 2 of that printer is now in my off campus studio, Avon Place Glass and it's printing you know kind of low 300 by 300 millimeter objects right now that can be combined to make architectural scale structures. So this all happened because some student just got this crazy idea. I think at MIT that happens because you know we've got these students who are taking thermal fluids classes and all these academic classes where they're kind of looking for ways to connect what they're learning academically with something that happens in the real world.

You can tell when a piece of glass has been 3D printed because looks like it’s been built up layer by layer, sort of like an igloo, or the beehive on the Utah state flag.

Last year Houk and Stern and Oxman used the MIT glass printer to make dozens of stackable clover-shaped structures. They took these modules to Italy, where they used them to build a kind of light sculpture made of sparkling three-meter-high columns.

Now there’s more familiar glass object that’s also frozen record of the way molten glass once flowed. And that’s the screen of your smartphone.

Which brings us all the way back around to Corning, Incorporated and the invention of Gorilla Glass.

Back in 2007, when Apple was building the very first iPhone, Steve Jobs had a problem. The iPhone was the first smartphone that didn’t have a keyboard. Basically it was all screen. But on the early prototypes the screen was made from plastic. And Jobs found that after carrying the phone around in his pocket for a few weeks, that plastic screen got all scratched up.

Here’s Lori Hamilton from Corning.

Lori Hamilton: He made contact with Wendell Weeks our Chairman and CEO and asked could glass be used in this application. And because of our expertise in glass science and because the capability of the fusion process within six months we were able to provide a material that met the requirements for the scratch resistance, the design, and also the optical features. And then the success of that has led to continued generations. Now we're on Gorilla Glass five.

The fusion process Hamilton just mentioned isn’t nuclear fusion. Although that would be awesome. She’s talking about the fusion draw process. That’s a technique Corning developed back in the 1960s as a way to make extremely flat glass.

Jane Cook: It's one of these classic Corning stories of something getting invented that has in the end isn't really appropriate for the task at hand at the time and gets put on a shelf.

That’s Jane Cook again, from the Corning Museum of Glass. The way Cook explains it, Corning was originally looking for a better way to make plate glass. Traditional manufacturers make plate glass by floating molten glass on top of a bath of molten tin. But glass made that way was never perfectly flat.

Corning’s engineers invented a process where molten glass flows into a pipe, then bubbles up through a slit in the top of the pipe. The hot glass slides down around both sides of the pipe. And then as those two sheets of glass get pulled down by gravity, they fuse and form surfaces that are incredibly flat, because they’ve never touched anything but the air.

It turned out the fusion draw process was too expensive for making plate glass. So Corning put it aside for a few decades, until the company needed a new way to make perfectly flat glass to hold the electronics inside the flat screens for computer displays and TVs. In the earl 2000s Cook was part of the team that adapted the fusion draw process for this new application.

Jane Cook: That was sort of the magic of the early 2000s at Corning is that we figured out how to make this extraordinarily strange wonderful glass.

Pretty soon, display glass was one of Corning’s biggest businesses. And when Steve Jobs came calling in 2007, the company figured it could adapt the fusion draw process to make the super thin, super hard glass for the top layer of the iPhone screen. And that’s how Gorilla Glass was born.

Jane Cook: Because of the work that had been done five years earlier…the flexibility the understanding of how that machine worked was in place that we could take this now completely different glass formula…and adapt it quickly enough to begin to make the new material. So, one standing on top of another. 

Within a few years after Apple released the iPhone, a whole bunch of phone makers were using Gorilla Glass on their own devices. And that got the folks at Corning thinking hey, maybe we could take this even farther. Maybe smartphones and tablets are only the beginning, and maybe Corning could help build a world where even more things are made of glass, and all of those things can display information.

That was the world Corning showed in A Day Made of Glass. Maybe you saw it when it first came out in 2011.

It’s a five-minute video that follows a family that basically lives a glass house and has a glass car and two cute kids who go to a glass school. In this near-future world absolutely every surface that can be turned into a display is a display, from the closet doors to the kitchen counter to the refrigerator.

The video was so slick that it went totally viral. It’s now got 26 million views on YouTube. The site Marketing Daily called it the most viewed corporate video in history.

Lori Hamilton: We developed this vision of how glass could impact our daily lives in a way that we might not even notice. From the moment we wake up till when we're at school or at work to social and it's been a passion of ours to look at how we could help to enable this through glass.

Lori Hamilton says that ever since the video came out, Corning has been looking for ways to make that science-fiction world real.

For one thing, that means taking the Gorilla Glass that went into the first iPhone and making it even stronger, thinner, lighter, and more scratch-resistant.

It also means looking for other places to put Gorilla Glass. Hamilton says that if automakers used Gorilla Glass in the windshields and side windows of cars, it would reduce the weight of the glass in our vehicles by 40 percent.

Lori Hamilton: Also we're working on gorilla for the interior of the car…it gives consumers that touch and feel that they've become accustomed to with their smartphone….We've also developed ways to process the gorilla to make three dimensional shapes…So it's not a simple flat rectangular display. It could be shaped and curved and provide a different kind of aesthetic.

Now there was something pretty audacious about A Day Made of Glass. Corning itself only makes glass. It doesn’t make any of the electronics you need to turn these big surfaces into screens, or the software and networks you need to make the screens useful.

But Hamilton says that was actually part of the point of the video—to get other companies to buy into Corning’s vision.

Lori Hamilton: We look for partners but we're also realistic about what are the things that can be enabled next year versus ones that may take five or 10 years.

Getting other companies on board with the vision of a world made of glass could take a while. But that might be okay. Especially if it gives us more time to think about how we would really use this technology. 

After all, we’ve now had about a decade to to play around with our glass smartphones and our glass tablets. And we’ve already started to think that maybe these glowing glass screens are a little too mesmerizing. And maybe there’s such a thing as being too connected to the infosphere.

Here’s more of my conversation with Helen Lee, from the glass lab at the University of Wisconsin.

Helen Lee: Yes, glass is amazing. Yes it's super cool that the engineers at Corning like keep making all these new things … But I do think culturally just as a consumer, as a citizen, as an artist, as a person. I actually feel like…there was this moment where we just all went to these glass screens, like our input devices became the screen all in this one fell swoop.… And … I think the state of technology is actually really quite awkward right now in terms of people, like, having lots of it and  not necessarily knowing what to do with it or how to apply it or when it should or when it shouldn't be used.

Wade: So if I understand you right you're saying that maybe we rushed to try and put every imaginable function onto a glass surface and we haven't necessarily figured out which functions really are most suited to glass.

Helen Lee: I don't know… personally speaking, I would never want to live in a place that was all glass. That sounds horrible. Right. Because glass does not do all the things I want it to do.…There's this…vision of glass as everything. And I think that's like a glamorized, idealized vision that industry puts out. When it comes to reality I guess I am more interested in glass being used where it matters and when it should…be used.

A few minutes ago we heard Jane Cook explaining how before she joined the Corning Museum of Glass, she was on the team that perfected the fusion draw process, which led to Gorilla Glass and turned into a huge business for Corning. I asked her how she felt about being part of that. And her answer surprised me.

Jane Cook: A lot of times it feels really good. But technology is neutral. It's what we choose to do with it. Displays, because they're bright because they're there and they're moving and they're changing and they draw your attention away from the object world...when someone gets injured because they're looking at their handheld walking across the street or people are … or children getting tied to their games and things, I worry about it.I think there's ethical considerations…and human considerations about what it means to have access to so much data without having access to wisdom.

So we probably need to keep thinking about where we want more glass in our lives, and where we don’t.

But if we’ve learned anything about glass, it’s that it’s unpredictable. The mirror for the world’s largest telescope can crack before you even take it out of the mold. A beautiful glass platter can shatter before you take it out of the oven. And a totally uneconomical method for making window glass can turn out to be perfect for making display glass.

And maybe that makes glass a good reflection of the larger world of modern technology. There are no limits to its value or its versatility. But we can never quite calculate what it’s going to do.

Peter Houk: I’m  just amazed at Glass's ability to be reinvented by people in a new way because it's just such a strange and rich material.

So who knows? Maybe the future will be made of glass.

Peter Houk: Yeah, no, I think Glass will continue to be that kind of material … that is mysterious and that yields new results and you won't always know what they are when you invent them. But then later on a use will be found for them. I think glass is still generating that kind of thing. And will.

Soonish is written and produced by me, Wade Roush. The show’s theme is by Graham Gordon Ramsay.

All of our other music this week came from the enormously talented composers Joel Roston and Andrew Willis of TitleCard Music in Boston.

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Now, speaking of Patreon, I want to tell you a little story about my friend and colleague Tamar Avishai. She makes the amazing art history podcast The Lonely Palette, which is part of the Hub & Spoke audio collective along with Soonish and Ministry of Ideas and Hi-Phi Nation. Back in December Tamar did something that was both clever and brave. She promised that if she made it to 75 supporters on Patreon, she’d make a special episode of The Lonely Palette about Dogs Playing Poker. You know, that goofy painting where there are seven dogs sitting around a table playing cards. It started out as a joke. But Tamar hit her goal on Patreon and show she’s actually finished the episode. And it turns out to be a pretty deep and fascinating journey into the relationship between art and kitsch in the 20th century. You can hear the whole dog-gone episode now at thelonelypalette.com.

At our website, soonishpodcast.org, you can find out more about all the people and ideas in this episode. You can also join our email list and browse the archive of previous episodes.

You can join our growing tribe of Twitter followers at soonishpodcast.

Special thanks this week to Kip Clark, Joseph Fridman, Mark Pelofsky, Josh Simpson, Jay Brown, Peter Houk, Helen Lee, and all of the brilliant people I met at Corning Incorporated and the Corning Museum of Glass. Thank you for listening and I’ll be back with a new episode….soonish.