The Watch From Outer Space

At the turn of the 19th century, Western culture became fascinated with meteors and other astronomical phenomena. Around the same time, two men working 800 miles apart — the Austrian printer Count Alois von Beckh Widmanstätten and Guglielmo Thomson, an English mineralogist based in Naples — made a similar discovery: If one treats a split-open iron-based meteorite with a mild nitric acid solution, a strikingly intricate crystalline grid emerges. Today, the motif is referred to as the Widmanstätten patterns or the Thomson structures, but no matter who gets credit, they are among nature’s most hypnotic creations. Rolex, the Swiss watchmaker, has used meteorite for its dials in the past,

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