Next up, transparent aluminum

When I was a kid, my grandparents took me to the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville. Hungary's pavilion that year had a giant Rubik's Cube out front in honor of inventor Erno Rubik. I tasted ultra high temperature (UHT) milk, which is pasteurized in a way that lets it be stored unrefrigerated on a shelf--new at the time. And I stood in line while a specially-reprogrammed automotive assembly robot painted a primitive picture on paper for me.

There's so much proto-tech thrown around at a World's Fair that it's hard to know what's really important at the time. The Rubik's Cube drew my attention then, but its worldly importance over time has not been as big as the robots that now make our cars. Far more important, but less flashy, were touchscreen computers, which were kind of balky, but were the predecessors of today's iPad.

Similarly, it's hard to know exactly how important this "transparent concrete" will be over time, but it's still pretty neat to see a version of what was purely fiction in 1986 when Scotty talked about "transparent aluminum" in Star Trek IV.

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