I took a three hour urban hike to and through the Nelson Atkins, one of my favorite museums. I can’t remember the last time I went to a museum alone.

When you go with other people to a museum, you talk about art. The historical context. Your personal experiences and preferences with art.

I have actually gone to museums a couple of times with people who just chatted normally, as though they were in a cafe.

But visiting a museum alone gives you an opportunity to think about odd things. In this case, I had been reading The Disappearing Spoon, a book about the periodic table of the elements. I had just read about porcelain.

Naturally, I was excited to find a British ceramics exhibit.

This little vessel says, “Ladies all I pray make free and tell me how you like your tea.”

There was interesting history as well as chemistry.

There were some wonderful teapots.

But porcelain is different from earthenware and stoneware. Look at the colors and the fine details of this set of dishes intended to make a connection with Marie Antoinette’s parents when she was three years old.

Bad picture, but such amazing artwork. Kaolin clay and minerals with a desire to change their number of electrons, heated together at very high temperatures, create porcelain. An exceptional type of ceramic. It began in China, and the Europeans who wanted to make it engaged in scientific research and possibly espionage to find the secret.

Look at this color.

There were works of art from many other times and places, so I definitely thought about art and history as well.