Block of the Week: Glass

In the interests of full transparency

If you could only have one enchantment in Minecraft, what would it be? Perhaps you'd pick Depth Strider, for exploring below the sea. Or Looting, to maximise your hunting efficiency. Me? I'd choose Silk Touch, for all those occasions when I accidentally put our Block of the Week down in the wrong place.

Glass, you see, can't be broken with regular tools in Minecraft. Well, not without it shattering into a million tiny, invisible shards. Any experienced builder will always cook up more glass then they need for this exact reason - the tiniest slip and you'll have to make a lengthy trip back to the desert for more sand.

First suggested in 2009 by Navineous on the TIGSource forums, Glass was one of the earliest blocks to be added to the game. Navineous suggested it be used to make windows and "ant farms with mobs". Over time, though, its uses have seen significant expansion - it can now be turned into bottles, beacons and daylight sensors. You can thin it down to glass panes, for more depth in your constructions, and with some dye you can even stain it different colours.

Glass is made of sand, just like in the real world, where its origins can be traced back to 3500 BC. Its transparency made it as useful among ancient Mediterranean societies as it is in Minecraft for spotting when a horde of zombies is converging on your house. But glass windows like the ones we have today didn't become common in ordinary homes until the early 17th century. Before that, windows were made with panes of flattened animal horn or paper.

Some people that think they're clever might try and tell you that glass isn't solid - it's actually a liquid that moves incredibly slowly. They'll tell you that you can see the proof on old windows, which are thicker at the bottom. But they're wrong. Glass, once cooled, is a solid - and old panes are only thicker at the bottom just because it used to be difficult to make perfectly flat glass. Craftsmen installed it with the heaviest side at the bottom for stability reasons.

The most creative amongst you might have even tried making whole buildings out of glass in Minecraft. If you have, you're following in the footsteps of the Victorian-era engineers who built the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London in 1851. The enormous structure, which housed 14,000 exhibitors, astonished visitors from around the world.

Today, you probably use more glass than you realise in everyday life. As well as glass in your windows and mirrors, you'll find the brittle substance in your laptop, your mobile phone, in the solar panels that power more and more of the world, and even in the fibre-optic cables that carry your Realms data from our servers to your home. Without glass, there'd be no Minecraft - and without Minecraft, we'd all be out of a job. Which would suck. So, thanks glass! We hope you stick around for many more years.