In the applied materials lab at Corning, researchers mix glass to scientists' specifications, pulling it out of 2,912° F ovens and pouring it into a platinum container to cool.
To make glass is to know failure. A glassmaker begins with powders of oxides, stirring them into a platinum crucible, then sticking the batch in an oven heated to 2,912° F, where the oxides liquefy into a molten state. He then removes the crucible, and the liquid cools and hardens into glass -- an amorphous solid. A team analyzes its chemical makeup and "seeds" (a.k.a. bubbles). But to really know glass, to get a sense of its strength, you must break it. So someone bends and hammers and sometimes throws baseballs at the glass until it scratches or cracks or shatters. He studies the fractures, which reveal the glass's secrets. Glass fails, the researchers learn from the failure, and the cycle repeats.