SciTech Briefs

Evidence found on plate tectonics

Scientists now hypothesize that the Earth’s tectonic plates began moving about 3.8 billion years ago. This claim diverges from the previous finding that such movement began 2.5 billion years ago, which was based on a rock formation in China.

Scientists base their most recent estimate of 3.8 billion years on a rock formation in Greenland, called the Isua supracrustal belt. This rock formation is one of several ancient formations that survived the molten meltdown of the Earth’s early history.

The Isua supracrustal belt has cracks with volcanic rock inside. This finding suggests that the Isua supracrustal belt split billions of years ago and filled with magma from the ocean.

Gustaf Arrhenius, who is a member of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, stated, “It’s a marvelous case of solving a jigsaw puzzle, and a very difficult one because these rocks are all very old and have been badly mangled.”


Gold used to quicken reactions

Researchers have found that gold has catalytic properties, meaning that it can speed up chemical reactions. Dean Toste, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has put forth a hypothesis to explain this finding using Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

The electrons surrounding a gold nucleus move at half the speed of light. Consequently, by the theory of relativity, the electrons become heavy and the gold atom becomes more condensed.

When this happens, one of the atom’s electron shells accepts electrons, while another shell gives electrons.

Thus, whereas most metal catalysts either only accept or give electrons, Toste claims that gold does both. This dual ability of gold enables the metal to catalyze reactions involving carbon to carbon bonds. These chemical bonds are imperative to the formation of organic molecules.


Monkeys use rocks to communicate

Antonio Moura, a researcher of biological anthropology at the University of Cambridge, has found that Brazilian monkeys hit stones together as a form of communication. The monkeys also teach one another how to communicate in this way.

By hitting stones together, monkeys fend off threatening animals. Moura found that as he moved closer to the monkeys, the monkeys would pick up stones and bang them against rocks. As the monkeys became accustomed to Moura’s presence, however, they used the stones less frequently.

Moura also found that older and younger monkeys banged stones together without noticing him. This suggests that the older monkeys teach the younger monkeys to use this tactic.

Source: BBC News