Charles Vernon Boys had a gift for designing
scientific instruments. Seeking to measure
the effects of slight physical forces on
objects, he wanted to create a very fine fiber
of glass to use as a balance arm.
To create such a thin string of glass, he
heated glass until it softened, then shot it
from a specially constructed crossbow.
The experiment was successful, but the
biggest surprise was how strong and
adaptable the fiber was. By winding it
together into fiberglass, it could be used in
everything from home insulation to airplane
Passing light through the fibers in fluctuating
series led to fiber optics, which became the
carrier of the global Internet.
Surrounded by steel and insulated, each
fiber is thinner than straw, but together, you
can hold all the voice and data messages
passing between North America and Europe
in one hand.
As Steve Johnson put it in How We Got to
Now, "The World Wide Web is woven
together out of threads of glass."
"The World Wide Web is woven together out of
threads of glass."