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Archimedes' Burning Mirror Problem Solved (cont.)
By Christopher Jordan

The history of ceramics helps illustrates the point. It is believed that ceramics evolved with the evolution of the wood kiln and complex firing techniques. Most stones when placed in a normal fire will not alter their composition in anyway at all, yet this leap in process was made throughout the ancient world. There is no doubt that kilns were eventually used to produce large quantities of potteries. However, Jordan contends that the first experimental work was carried out with these mirrors.

After some ceramists suggested it was impossible to make ceramics with sunlight, the technique was demonstrated at an International Ceramics conference. Despite the production of glazes in minutes as opposed to hours, the historical concept gained little traction. However, it was shown that it is easy for craftsmen to expose a range of materials to very high heats using parabolic dishes.

Recent mirror research followed a similar path to the speculative alchemist. Metals, rocks, gems, bricks and ceramic paints were just left in the beam for a few minutes to see what happened. The solar device was made and techniques were devised to anneal gems, cut stones, fire pottery, produce ceramics, vaporize, cut and smelt metals in less time than it takes to fire up a wood kiln. Even kids today appear to be treading the same path with homemade reflective dishes. This is not beyond the scope of an ancient craftsman, whose normal methods involved elaborate kilns and would mostly result in failure. The inference is that the development of many fields owes a great deal to the use of this solar technology.

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