Sand has been used for construction since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians. In the 15th century, an Italian artisan figured out how to turn sand into fully transparent glass, which made possible the microscopes, telescopes, and other technologies that helped drive the Renaissance’s scientific revolution.
But at the dawn of the 20th century, almost all of the world’s large structures — apartment blocks, office buildings, churches, palaces, fortresses — were still made with stone, brick, clay, or wood. The tallest buildings stood fewer than ten stories high. Roads were mostly paved with broken stone, IF at all. Glass in the form of windows or tableware was a relatively rare and expensive luxury.
The mass manufacture and deployment of concrete and glass changed all that, reshaping how and where people lived in the industrialized world. Decades later, digital technology, powered by silicon chips and other sophisticated hardware made with sand, began reshaping the global economy in ways gargantuan and quotidian. Continue Reading →