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No. 42: Nov-Dec 1985

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Speculations from gold

The item "Restless Gold" in SF#41 has now been amplified by J.-O. Bovin et al. Using a high-resolution electron microscope, magnification 30,000,000, with a real-time video recorder, this group has obtained startling pictures of gold crystals and their environs. "At this magnification, individual columns of atoms in the gold crystals are clearly revealed; it appears that not only are atoms of the surfaces of small crystals in constant motion, hopping from site to site, but also that the crystals are surrounded by clouds of atoms in constant interchange with atoms on the crystal surface. The clouds of gold atoms extended up to 9A from the crystal surface, continually changing their shape and density." The remarkably dynamic nature of solid surfaces, as now revealed, has many implications. (Bovin, J. -O., et al; "Imaging of Atomic Clouds Outside the Surfaces of Gold Crystals by Electron Microscopy," Nature, 317:47, 1985.)

The problem of snowflake growth (SF#38) is probably solvable in terms of clouds of water molecules surrounding crystal nuclei with electrostatic fields guiding the symmetric deposition of molecules. Biological structures, too, are probably encompassed by clouds of atoms and molecules; viz., the crystal-like, polyhedral viruses. Does the highly ordered DNA structure also possess an aura of molecules constantly swapping places ? Such would not be inconsistent with "jumping genes" and M. Kimura's Neutral Theory of Evolution (SF#41). (WRC)

From Science Frontiers #42, NOV-DEC 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss