That Word You Heard: Vitrification

While lightning can, in fact, strike the same place twice, if it strikes enough sand, it can create glass. That process — turning something into glass — is called vitrification. In this case, the sand heats up and liquefies, then rapidly cools into a glasslike state. Vitrification pops up all over, beyond traditional glass. Fertility experts use extreme cooling to vitrify immature human eggs and embryos, better preserving them. We also vitrify some radioactive waste for safe storage by liquefying it and mixing in glass-forming compounds like silica sand, until it cools into a safe-to-store chunk of glass.

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