Gold prospectors may one day rely on lowly bacteria to point them to deposits of the precious metal. Researchers have discovered that gold-laden soil often contains an abundance of spores belonging to a certain bacterium. The affinity humans have for gold aside, the ore in its soluble form is actually highly toxic to most living things. The common bacterium Bacillus cereus, however, possesses a unique resistance to the metal, allowing it to survive in a relatively vacant environmental niche: soil loaded with the adored ore. A paper presented yesterday at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology documents these rich findings.
It was while studying gold-mining regions in China that Hongmei Wang of Ohio State University and her colleagues discovered that high numbers of B. cereus spores occur in soils bearing elevated concentrations of gold, as compared to soils lacking gold. The key is the spore: a bacterial spore, or tough shell, forms in response to harsh environmental conditions like heat, cold, radiation, or the presence of toxic substances such as gold. Spores allow bacteria to survive until more favorable conditions develop and the bacteria can resume their normal growth. Because high gold levels induce spore formation in B. cereus, an abundance of B. cereus spores in soil can indicate the presence of gold, which is good news for mining companies.
Testing B. cereus levels is cheaper and more efficient than the painstaking techniques currently used to search for gold. "This biotechnique will help exploration and mining companies search for underlying gold deposits with relatively high gold grades," Wang remarks. "The method is, therefore, promising for the potential application in geoexploration accompanied with routine geochemical and geophysical methods."
Rachael Moeller | Scientific American
In times of climate change: What a lake’s colour can tell about its condition
21.09.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy