In the near future on our own planet of Earth, an odd plague has descended from space. It affects glass. Any glass whether natural or man-made turns into powder. The chemical elements are the same, it's just like incredibly finely ground glass.
Glassmakers can melt the powder and turn it back into into glass but it just rots away again in a few hours.
Scientists are desperately trying to understand the phenomenon, could it be a bacterium that feeds on glass? Not really because the glass isn't chemically changed. They are of course handicapped in their investigations because their light-microscopes no longer have any lenses and lots of their other equipment relies on glass components.
Meanwhile the world is falling apart. Missing window glass is forming huge drifts of powder that blow around, ebbing and flowing like a glittering snow.
Mirrors have gone but of course vanity is not a priority for most people right now.
There are many, many items that contain glass that we used to take for granted in our daily lives.
Assume that scientists aren't going to solve the problem in the next ten or even twenty years.
How well would we survive this catastrophe? Could we cope with the glass dust? Would our communications technology grind to a halt? (Think of fibre-optics for example).
It's tempting to say, "replace everything with clear plastic". However replacing the world's windows alone would take more than ten years even if it was possible. In any case plastics factories now lack light bulbs, windows, and all sorts of other things that are stopping them from working properly.
Assuming the problem doesn't get solved, where would we be in ten or twenty years?
1. The affected glass is the substance described in the following:
Glass is an amorphous (non-crystalline) solid which is often transparent and has widespread practical, technological, and decorative usage in things like window panes, tableware, and optoelectronics. The most familiar, and historically the oldest, types of glass are based on the chemical compound silica (silicon dioxide), the primary constituent of sand ... A very clear and durable quartz glass can be made from pure silica; the other compounds above are used to improve the temperature workability[clarification needed] of the product. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass
2. What is glass?
You can make glass by heating ordinary sand (which is mostly made of silicon dioxide) until it melts and turns into a liquid... sand melts at the incredibly high temperature of 1700°C (3090°F). http://www.explainthatstuff.com/glass.html
3. Included in glass are natural forms of silica (with impurities): obsidian, lechatelierite, quartz, quartz glass, vitreous silica
4. Real Science: It's worth noting that, e.g. Obsidian already suffers a very slow type of glass rot before the glass apocalypse. This is the scientist's best lead so far in trying to find a cure.
Because obsidian is metastable at the Earth's surface (over time the glass becomes fine-grained mineral crystals), no obsidian has been found that is older than Cretaceous age. This breakdown of obsidian is accelerated by the presence of water. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsidian