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Rough Science 6 Colorado: Mountain Video Diaries: Mike Bullivant

Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2005

Exclusive video extra in which Mike Bullivant talks about the challenge for the Mountain programme, from the sixth BBC/OU TV series Rough Science, based in Colorado

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Well yeah, this glass making challenge was a real challenge of course. I mean it’s an ancient recipe, people have been making glass for years from – we used sand, freshly washed sand so it was as pure as possible, we used baking soda and we used some lime. A standard recipe for making glass. You need a high temperature and it was wonderful working with Jonathan and him trying to get us that high temperature with his electrical furnace.

We’ve got to make sunglasses, or we had to make sunglasses, and glass isn’t that easy to work with. The fluxes, the sodium carbonate and the lime that we used dropped the temperature of the silica so it will melt, but the problem that we had with the glass was that one of the by-products of the glass making process is carbon dioxide is given off and that produces bubbles within the glass, and it meant that the glass that we ended up with was actually full of bubbles, quite opaque almost. But one of the beautiful things about this was that we were asked to make coloured glass and we thought it would be a good thing to do to make coloured glass, so we put some cobalt compound in there and that produced this most beautiful colour, I’ve never seen anything like it, it really was a beautiful blue. I was surprised by it.

But, even though it was beautifully blue and opaque, we couldn’t work with it because glass is very difficult to work with, you need the right temperatures for it to become mobile enough for you to work with, otherwise – it was sticking to everything. It’s very adhesive, glass, as well which is something I didn’t appreciate. So it was sticking to the crucibles and it made life very difficult for us. But we got there. We ended up with a very hippy-looking, very Glastonbury Woodstock type pair of spectacles which you couldn’t see through, were beautifully coloured, but it was a work of art, it was a triumph of science, I think.





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