|Image obtained at Wikimedia, courtesy of user Maros|
I watched NOVA’s Secrets of the Dead last night. It was the episode on China’s Terracotta Warriors. The best word to describe it is mesmerizing. Eight thousand full size terracotta warriors, each of them individualized and not replicas of a single piece, were made in just over 10 years. It’s hard to imagine all the work.
But one of the most intriguing parts of the story had to do with color. Believe it or not, the warriors went into the ground in full color. It must have been an incredible sight. One of the colors used is a color known as Chinese Purple or Han Purple. At the time there were only two man made colors in the world–Egyptian Blue and Chinese Purple. Similar but not the same. Stanford scientists discovered that Chinese Purple contains barium and lead, while Egyptian Blue uses calcium. More studies were done using the world’s most powerful magnet at Tallahassee’s National High Magnet Field Laboratory.
And that’s where the story leaps into the future. Because the flakes of Chinese Purple loaded into the magnet’s core and subjected to extremely cold temperatures became a single magnetic wave, a unique state in quantum physics. A further lowering of temperature subsequently caused the wave to lose its third dimension and separate into two-dimensional planes. Something the world of superconductivity researchers are very excited about. The application of this discovery could eventually lead to faster computers and lower electricity bills.
Paint chips interred for over 2,200 years may be paving the way to a more energy efficient future. Pretty amazing.