Science Briefs: These leaves are more golden than others

October 27, 2013 

Eucalyptus trees from the Western Australian goldfields draw up tiny particles of gold via their roots – and it ends up in their leaves and branches.

The study, published in Nature Communications, provides the first evidence of gold growing in trees.

“The eucalypt acts as a hydraulic pump – its roots extend tens of meters into the ground and draw up water containing the gold. As the gold is likely to be toxic to the plant, it’s moved to the leaves and branches where it can be released or shed to the ground,” said Mel Lintern, a geochemist with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

The discovery is unlikely to start an old-time gold rush: The ‘nuggets’ are just one-fifth the diameter of a human hair and invisible to the eye. Yet it could provide a golden opportunity for mineral exploration, as the leaves or soil underneath the trees where they have fallen could indicate gold ore deposits buried underground, under sediments that are up to 60 million years old. csironewsblog.com

Lost Neanderthal hideout rediscovered in Europe

A record of Neanderthal archaeology, thought to be long lost, has been rediscovered by scientists working on the British island of Jersey, in the English Channel.

The study, published in Britain’s Journal of Quaternary Science, reveals that a key archaeological site has preserved geological deposits that were thought to have been lost through excavation 100 years ago.

The discovery was made when the team did fieldwork to stabilize and investigate a portion of the La Cotte de St Brelade cave, on Jersey’s coastline. A large portion of the site contains sediments dating to the last Ice Age, preserving 250,000 years of climate change and archaeological evidence.

The site has produced more Neanderthal stone tools than the rest of the British Isles put together.

“In terms of the volume of sediment, archaeological richness and depth of time, there is nothing else like it known in the British Isles,” said Matt Pope of the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, who helped lead the research.

The team dated sediments at the site using a technique called Optically Stimulated Luminesce, which measures the last time sand grains were exposed to sunlight. The results showed that part of the sediments are 100,000 to 47,000 years old, and probably belonged to one of the last Neanderthals to live in the region. nerc.ac.uk

Arts background aids STEM career

Good news for parents: Those pricey piano lessons or random toy parts littering your floors may one day lead to the next scientific breakthrough.

That’s according to new Michigan State University research linking childhood participation in arts and crafts activities to patents generated and businesses launched as adults.

In the study, published in the journal Economic Development Quarterly, researchers defined “childhood” as up to 14 years old.

A team of multidisciplinary researchers studied a group of MSU Honors College graduates from 1990 to 1995 who majored in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, or STEM. They found of that group, those who own businesses or patents received up to eight times more exposure to the arts as children than the general public. msutoday.msu.edu

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