Money may still not grow on trees, but scientists from Michigan State University have discovered the next closest thing: bacteria that can transform toxic chemicals into pure, 24-karat gold, according to MSU News.
The bacterium with the Midas touch, Cupriavidus metallidurans, was coaxed into producing real gold nuggets simply by exposing it to copious amounts of gold chloride, a toxic liquid substance with no actual value but which is found naturally in the environment. The bacterium gobbles up the gold chloride, ingesting all of the liquid’s toxins and waste, and leaves behind only solid gold. It just goes to show that one bacterium’s waste is another organism’s treasure.
“Microbial alchemy is what we’re doing — transforming gold from something that has no value into a solid, precious metal that’s valuable,” said Kazem Kashefi, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State University.
Kashefi, along with associate professor of electronic art and intermedia Adam Brown, conceived of the method. Rather than get rich, the two professors are instead using their gold-producing bacteria as part of an art exhibit titled, “The Great Work of the Metal Lover.” The exhibit makes use of the researchers’ odd visionary combination of biotechnology, art and alchemy to produce gold in front of an audience. The work received an honorable mention at the Prix Ars Electronica cyber art convention. (There was no evidence of the researchers paying off the judges with gold nuggets.)
“This is neo-alchemy. Every part, every detail of the project is a cross between modern microbiology and alchemy,” explained Brown. “Science tries to explain the phenomenological world. As an artist, I’m trying to create a phenomenon. Art has the ability to push scientific inquiry.”
The analogy to alchemy, the ancient practice of transforming base metals into noble metals like gold or silver, is an apt one. Although the practices of ancient alchemists have been widely debunked as pseudoscience and charlatanism, Kashefi and Brown’s method could rewrite the history books.
The gold produced using this method is also as pure as it gets: 99.9 percent pure. But is lab-produced gold as valuable as natural gold? Kashefi and Brown have yet to test the market on that, but they suspect the method they use in the lab is similar to how many gold nuggets get produced in nature. After all, both gold chloride and Cupriavidus metallidurans occur naturally. All it takes is for the two of them to naturally run into each other.
Given that the price of gold is currently through the roof, you might already have gotten the idea to begin duplicating this process in your garage. But before you get that twinkle in your eye, keep in mind that Kashefi and Brown have already crunched the numbers, and they attest that the experiment is not cost-effective enough to turn a worthy profit.
And besides, if gold really was so easy to produce, its value would undoubtedly sink.
Man oh man. The wonders of biotech. Imagine what it would be like to be an undergrad, or I guess even a grad student, who’d collaborate with the profs on this project.
Gold encrusted micropipettes man. Oh. That is so bling.
Stop scrolling and watch the heck out of this 30 second clip of a lightning strike
This is a film of a lightning strike, caught at over 7200 fps. The entire 30 second film doesn’t amount to a tenth of a second in real time. And the video itself is mind blowing.
Randall Munroe of XKCD has the best explanation:
Tom’s video gives an idea of how lightning moves. It starts with a branching bundle of charge—the “leader”—descending from the cloud. This is what you see in the first part of the video. It spreads downward at speeds of tens to hundreds of kilometers per second, covering the few kilometers to the ground in a few dozen milliseconds.
The leader carries comparatively little current—on the order of 200 amps. That’s still enough to kill you, but it’s nothing compared to what happens next. Once the leader makes contact with the ground, the cloud and the ground equalize with a massive discharge of more like 20,000 amps. This is the blinding flash you see. It races back up the channel at a significant fraction of the speed of light, covering the distance in under a millisecond—all within a single frame of that video.
(Technical detail: while it’s called a “return stroke”, charge is still flowing downward. However, the discharge appears to propagate upward. This effect similar to how when a traffic light turns green…, the cars in front start moving, then the cars in back, so the movement appears to spread backward.)
So the place on the ground where we see a bolt “strike” is the spot where the leader first makes contact with the surface. The leader moves down through the air in little jumps. It’s ultimately feeling its way toward the (usually) positive charge in the ground. However, it only “feels” charges within a few tens of meters of the tip. If there’s something connected to the ground within that distance, the bolt will jump to it. Otherwise, it jumps out in a semi-random direction and repeats the process.
By the way, if you have any unanswered questions about lightning strikes, definitely jump over to the entire post at XKCD: What if?
Sweet sweet physics in action. A little bit of lightning for you autumn day. Though it’s strangely sunny for the moment here….
So, there’s that.
The science is undeniable.
Except for, well, all of it.
Well Jasmin. Glad you are taking our inconsistencies seriously. Because someone has to fight for our superiority over ducks. Damn those fine feathered cretins wanting better than us humans. GOOD FOR YOU. You deserve a pat on the back.
Next thing you know, we’ll have the sea sponges walking all over us, and let’s not even talk about the legions upon legions of microorganisms around us. Ssssh they’ll hear us!
Dr. Martha Keller - “The Growing Presence of CAM in Veterinary Medicine” - TAM 2012
As part of the TAM 2012 Sunday paper presentation series, veterinarian Dr. Martha Keller exposes the rising tide of pseudoscience in veterinary medicine. With an introduction by James Randi Educational Foundation research fellow Dr. Ray Hall.
For any of my followers who want to be vets or are interested in veterinary medicine. I did not know there was such a thing as alt medicine for animals, but I am not surprised. Ugh.
Your DNA Changes as You Age
While our bodies age, scientists believe that our DNA at least remains constant. New research, however, reveals that, even though its sequence remains constant, subtle chemical changes occur to our DNA as we age—and it could explain why the risk of developing disease increases as we get older.
DNA is made up of four basic chemical building blocks, called adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine. It’s the sequences of those chemicals in a strand of DNA that determines what function a gene has, and one of the ways the resulting genes are controlled is a process called methylation. That just means that a methyl group — one carbon atom and three hydrogen atom—bonds to part of the DNA and subtly change its function.
New research, published in PNAS, however, shows that as we grow older our DNA’s susceptibility to methylation changes. A team of researchers from the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain, extracted DNA from white blood cells of twenty newborn babies and twenty people aged between 89 and 100 years old, then compared their respective degrees of methylation.
In a newborn baby 80.5 percent of cytosine nucleotides were methylated, while in centenarians that figure dropped to 73 percent. An intermediary example, taken from a 26-year-old male subject, exhibited 78 percent methylation. It’s not clear why it happens, but the researchers speculate that it could be due to extremely subtle age-related changes to the DNA.
But what the hell does it all mean? Well, taking a closer look at the samples, the researchers discovered that a third of the methylated groups which were in different positions in the elderly compared to the young are already known to be linked to cancer risk.
If you think about the DNA strand as “hardware” and the added methyl groups as “software”—which isn’t actually a bad analogy—you can think of the inappropriately placed methyl groups as software bugs that accumulate with age. It’s just that, for humans, those bugs leads to increased risk of terminal disease. Fortunately, these kinds of findings should help scientists troubleshoot our internal apps. [PNAS via Science]
Comparing ourselves with software really isn’t that bad an analogy. Though I don’t know how far you can take it lol. It definitely helps to learn more about things on the molecular level to understand more about what ultimately happens. Slightly scary that such tiny changes on a molecular level can cause huge effects downstream isn’t it?
But if you’re me, you kinda get used to that thinking, and it’s not so scary anymore lol.