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Block of the Week: Concrete

We need reinforcement!

In ye olden days of Minecraft (by which we mean about a year ago), making a big area of blocks of one flat colour meant catching, breeding and dyeing a whole lot of sheep. Literally hundreds, in some cases, depending on how big an area you had to fill. The “baa”s alone would drive players insane.

But then salvation came, in the form of the World of Color update. It added glazed terracotta, coloured beds, and most importantly and excitingly of all - concrete! That’s probably the first time in history that anyone has described concrete as exciting. Hey, it’s our block of the week. We have to at least pretend to get jazzed up about it.

Actually, my mission today is to convince you that concrete is much more exciting than you might think. I’ll skip over the usual stuff we write for our blocks of the week - the recipe (dye, sand and gravel), the changelog (unchanged since it was added to the game) and what you can use it for (pretty much covered that in the first paragraph).

Instead, let’s focus on three things. The first is how you make it. The recipe above will actually yield concrete powder - a substance that falls like sand and has the blast resistance of a damp napkin. To turn it into concrete you’ll need to add an extra ingredient - water. As soon as a concrete powder block touches water, it’ll harden immediately into full concrete. Magic! No wait, the other thing - science!

Concrete in the real world behaves in almost exactly the same way. Mix dry cement with water, and you’ll get a liquid that you can pour into just about any shape you want. Pour it over a steel frame, and you get reinforced concrete - which is even tougher than regular concrete, and is found all over the world.

The second thing that’s amazing about concrete is how much of it there is. Unless you’re reading this in a log cabin in the forest, we can almost guarantee that there’ll be some concrete within a few metres of you right now. By weight, it’s by far the most common man-made substance in the world, helping construct everything from the Hoover Dam to the Panama Canal.

The final fascinating concrete fact that we’ll leave you with is that humans have been making it for more than 8,000 years. Bedouin traders in 6500BC built houses, floors, and underground water tanks out of concrete-like materials in what is now southern Syria - keeping them secret because it let them survive in the desert. The Romans also used concrete extensively - in the huge structures they built out of it, including arches, vaults and domes. The amazing resilience of concrete is pretty much the biggest reason why so many Roman ruins are still around today. So next time you’re dragged around one on holiday, remember - it’s all concrete’s fault.

Duncan Geere
Duncan Geere

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