A Moment of Science

Useful Nuggets

It's true that you can find gold underground, in stream beds, and in rocks...

gold_nuggets

Photo: opacity (flickr)

Gold, you see, is a highly useful metal when it comes to electronic machinery.

Where are you most likely to find gold:
A) Underground
B) In a stream bed
C) In rocks
D) In a television

It’s true that you can find gold underground, in stream beds, and in rocks, but as any miner worth his or her salt will tell you, gold is fairly rare in nature. It’s not as though you can dig up any path of dirt, sift through the pebbles of a random stream, or crack open a rock and have a realistic expectation of striking gold. So, that rules out A, B, and C. Which leaves…D) In a TV?

Well, actually, yes. Investigate the innards of any television and you’ll find that its microcircuitry consists of fine gold-plated circuits connected to chips by hair-like threads of gold wire.

Gold, you see, is a highly useful metal when it comes to electronic machinery. Gold is highly malleable, almost completely resistant to corrosion, and exceptionally conductive of electricity. All of which make gold the perfect material to construct parts not only of TVs but also of telephones, spacecraft, computers, and semiconductors.

Even when electricity isn’t involved, gold’s biological inactivity makes it useful in other contexts. Take, for instance, an eye condition wherein the eyelid is unable to fully close. Eye surgeons can insert a sliver of gold into the upper eyelid, the weight of which helps the eyelid shut completely. Because gold doesn’t corrode or react with tears, it’s a perfectly safe substance to have stuffed into one’s eyelid.

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