One day in September 1873, physics professor John LeConte rowed a boat out onto Lake Tahoe. He writes in his notes how overwhelmed the first visitors were by the crystal clear water of the lake in the Sierra Nevada. On this day, LeConte wants to know exactly: He lowers a white plate on a rope into the cool, deep blue. Ten meters, twenty, thirty. He can still see the plate shimmering at a depth of 33 meters.

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