Block of the Week: Nether Brick
You’ll NETHER guess what pun we forced into the strapline!
Okay, you've got your diamond pickaxe. You've harvested your obsidian. You've constructed your portal, and lit it on fire to activate it. You step inside, and everything goes dark... Then suddenly, SHWOOM.
You emerge in the depths of the Nether, surrounded by pigmen and lava, with pretty much everything on fire. Eek!
Exploring a while, you dodge ghast fireballs, until suddenly you come up against a wall of dark, fireproof bricks. "That sure looks like a good contender for Block of the Week," you mutter to yourself as you get torn apart by wither skeletons. And you would be right!
Nether brick blocks came to Minecraft in version 1.0.0 - the first official release of the game. They generate naturally in only one place - the walls and pillars of nether fortresses, where they provide protection for those inside from ghast fireballs and other dangers. Unfortunately, there's usually more danger inside the fortresses than out, as they act as spawning grounds for blazes, wither skeletons and other terrors.
But you'll be going inside anyway, because it's the only place you can get blaze rods, wither skills, and nether wart. Sorry. It makes the game fun, though, right? If it's any consolation, you'll find chests in there too, full of goodies like diamonds, horse armour, golden swords and... er... saddles. You’re welcome?
If you want to replicate a Nether Fortress in the overworld, then you can make nether brick blocks by putting four individual nether bricks in a square in a crafting grid, each made by roasting netherrack in a furnace. You can also break existing nether brick blocks by smacking them with any kind of pickaxe.
The real world doesn't have a nether (or does it?), but we do have fireproof bricks - usually called "refractory bricks" - that are able to keeps their strength at very hot temperatures. Different ingredients allow them to cope with different temperatures - fire clay bricks can manage up to 1500C or so, chromite bricks can handle up to 1700C and those made of zirconia will stand up to temperatures higher than 2000C without melting!
Fire bricks were invented in 1822 by a Welshman named William Weston Young. People had fireproofed furnaces beforehand by applying a ceramic coating to the inside, but these coatings were fragile and easily broken. Young's design, on the other hand, called for a furnace made entirely out of fire bricks - which turned out to be both tougher and cheaper.
His invention contributed to the progress of the industrial revolution, and similar bricks are still used in iron and steel-making furnaces today, as well as in rockets and on the bottoms of the space shuttles. So if you're ever building a space shuttle in Minecraft, consider lining the underside of it with nether bricks for an authentic touch. It'll handle whatever temperatures you throw at it!
- Duncan Geere