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Harvest of Gold

January 1, 1999

Gold miners aren’t going to want to throw away their drills and explosives-at least, not right away. But in New Zealand, researchers have come up with another way to mine gold. It’s a plant, Brassica juncea, that is in the same family as cabbage.

No one is likely to strike it rich using this floral method, says Robert R. Brooks, a geochemist at New Zealand’s Massey University who trained the plant in gold mining. But it could provide an effective way to glean gold from the “tailings,” or spent earth, around old mines.

The New Zealand scientists added to the soil the compound ammonium thiocyanate, which binds to gold particles, forming a water-soluble complex that is transported through the roots and gathered in the shoots and leaves. The dried plants can be incinerated, leaving small flecks of ore in the ash.

Brooks is prospecting for other plants that can absorb gold even more efficiently. He speculates that the technology of induced accumulation might also be applied to collect silver, platinum, palladium and other precious metals.

With the price of platinum even higher than that of gold, it just might be time to get out the rototiller and expand that garden this spring.

Deep Dive

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Five poems about the mind

DREAM VENDING MACHINE I feed it coins and watch the spring coil back,the clunk of a vacuum-packed, foil-wrappeddream dropping into the tray. It dispenses all kinds of dreams—bad dreams, good dreams,short nightmares to stave off worse ones, recurring dreams with a teacake marshmallow center.Hardboiled caramel dreams to tuck in your cheek,a bag of orange dreams…

Work reinvented: Tech will drive the office evolution

As organizations navigate a new world of hybrid work, tech innovation will be crucial for employee connection and collaboration.

lucid dreaming concept
lucid dreaming concept

I taught myself to lucid dream. You can too.

We still don’t know much about the experience of being aware that you’re dreaming—but a few researchers think it could help us find out more about how the brain works.

panpsychism concept
panpsychism concept

Is everything in the world a little bit conscious?

The idea that consciousness is widespread is attractive to many for intellectual and, perhaps, also emotional
reasons. But can it be tested? Surprisingly, perhaps it can.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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