MySci Round-Up October 19: Holtermann’s Nugget

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On this date in 1872, miners in the Hill End area of New South Wales, Australia found the single biggest piece of gold ever discovered. It was dubbed Holtermann’s Nugget, even though technically it was not a nugget, but another type of gold specimen called a matrix. The not-actually-a-nugget’s namesake was Bernhardt Otto Holtermann, a colorful Australian hotelier, politician, mining entrepreneur and draft dodger (he fled his native Germany in 1858 to avoid military service). Holtermann worked as a waiter in Australia for a few years before moving to Hill End in 1861 to seek his fortune in the gold fields. He wasn’t very successful as a miner, and even nearly lost his life when an explosive charge went off prematurely. In 1866, he started doing other jobs, and eventually became owner of a hotel. But Holtermann kept his part-interest in the mine, and when a rich vein of gold was struck in 1868, he and his partners became rich men. In 1872, a crew found the gigantic gold specimen, embedded in gold reef. After it was carefully brought to the surface, Holtermann, who regarded the specimen as his baby, had a famous photograph taken with it, in which the non-nugget stands nearly as tall as his shoulder. He then offered his partners 1000 British pounds to give the specimen to him. They rejected Holtermann’s bid, and shipped the piece away to be smashed into gold powder.

And now, here are the stories of the day.

Father of Fractal Geometry dies at age 86. Mathematician Benoit Madelbrot’s life work was uncovering the hidden order of nature.

U.S. government pushes to ease technical obstacles to electronic eavesdropping. 
Those “Can you hear me now?” commercials may take on a whole new meaning.

Tropics in decline as resources exhausted at alarming rate. 
This is extremely bad news, as far as biodiversity is concerned.

Harvard neurobiologists create mice that can ‘smell’ light. 
They put light-sensitive proteins into the olfactory systems of mice, and voila!

Our stone-age ancestors ate more than just meat. 
30,000 years ago, the Atkins diet hadn’t been invented yet.