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Did you know that...?

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[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]There are thousands of cute little pieces of information in the subjects ranging from History to Chemistry. We will view at some of them at random order, in this thread.

Rome was saved by Geese-only to be destroyed by Lead!

The geese in the temple of Juno on the Capitoline Hill saved Rome from the barbaric Gauls around 390 B.C.

They noticed the advancing army in time to awake the night guards by their piercing cries.

Rome was destroyed by the simple metal lead. Roman aristocracy used dishes set in lead. Aristocratic women used lead based cosmetic paints in excess.

Owing to the systematic lead poisoning, in tiny doses, on a daily basis, the average life span of a Roman Patrician was never more than 25 years!

Sure enough it was a country of young people, as they never lived long enough to become old!

(To be continued...)
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Lead (part 2)

People of lower classes were not subjected to this kind of lead poisoning, since they could not afford the lead dishes or the cosmetics. But they were poisoned by the water supply. Roman water mains used pipes made of lead.

All soluble compounds of lead are poisonous. The water supplied was rich in carbon-di-oxide. This reacted with the lead pipes forming Lead Carbonate-which readily dissolved in the water being supplied.

Lead ingested thus replaced the calcium in the bones and caused chronic health problems, contributing to one of the major causes of the fall of the Roman Empire.

Lead was used in many shady dealing besides-since its melting point was very low! When Inquisition was rampant, Jesuits had used lead as a means of torture and also execution.

Indians were not far behind either! As recently as 19th Century, molten lead was poured in the ears of a lower caste man who was caught eavesdropping ( regardless of whether or not it was intentional ) to the reading of Holy texts by the Brahmin priests.

As a child I have heard the expression " pouring molten lead into the ears" and had imagined it to be a figure of speech. But it turns out to be a gruesome reality!

Since time immemorial, the priests of Babylon, Egypt and India had kept their knowledge a deep secret, so that they could continue to exercise their power over the common man.

In Venice, a notorious prison still survives. It is a medieval state prison connected with the Doge's Palace by The Bridge of Sighs. In the olden days, this prison had special cells in the attic, under a lead roof, for the most dangerous criminals.

In summer they would by scorched and roasted by the unbearable heat and in the winter frozen by the extreme cold. Their cries of pain could be heard on The Bridge of Sighs. An apt name for such a bridge!

(To be continued...)
Smt. Visalakshi

No, I didn't know all that, mentioned above. It is truly interesting and informative to get to know such past dated existences.

Thank you very much for coming up with such a thread, to highlight many of the unknown historical truths.

I shall continue with curiosity and pleasure, to read your future posts in this thread.
Dear Mr. Ravi,

I thank you for your feedback. There are thousands of amazing things around us, if only we find time to look for them.

I have never been a lover of History and wars but History combined with Chemistry is no doubt interesting.
Hope to live up to your expectation in this new thread,
with warm regards,
Mrs. V.R.
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Lead part 3.

Ever since the fire arms were invented, lead is being used to make those deadly bullets. More controversies are settled by this heavy metal rather than by the weighty arguments...be it a battle, a war or just a fight between two hostile gangs!

The one who is 'loaded' with more lead to spare, invariably wins. Does this make lead an "All bad and no good metal?"

In order to protect one's country, the military needs not only mettle but also the metal lead. Army can't exist without using lead. Various storage batteries require more than one third of the lead produced.

In an engine, the gasoline is compressed before it is ignited. Greater the compression, higher the efficiency of the engine! But when thus compressed the gasoline tends to detonate even before ignition.An 'Anti Knock' is added to prevent these detonations.

One gram of Tetra Ethyl Lead added to one liter of gasoline is the Anti Knock.The mixture is dyed pink to denote that it is poisonous. Anti Knock is by no means an unmixed blessing either!

Tons of lead poisons are discharged into the atmosphere by the vehicles, along with the other exhausts. Traces of lead can be found even in the remote Arctic snow- far from the maddening traffic.This will continue unless and until another suitable non- poisonous alternative is discovered.
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Lead (Part 4).

White Lead and Red Lead:

White lead was produced and exported more than 3000 years ago.The Rhodes Island specialized in this trade by employing a simple technique.Vinegar was poured in a cask, branches of shrubs were placed in it and pieces of lead were placed on them.

The cask was sealed and left undisturbed. After some time when it was opened lead pieces had a formed a white coating. This white lead was scraped off, stored in casks and sold.

Red lead was a product of a lucky accident. Once a fire broke out in a ship packed with casks containing White lead. The charred casks contained a bright red thick stuff which turned out to be a remarkable red paint. After that white lead was roasted to produce red lead.

Miracles do impress the believers in them! Lead paint dims with time and fades. But it can be revived and made as good as new by wiping it with a cloth dipped in vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.

Churchmen knew this secret and played a trick to win credibility of the gullible public. They would wipe the faded paintings and icons in the church with a damp cloth and presto they would be restored to life! Nothing short of a miracle!

( To be continued)

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[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Lead Part 5

Poison as well as a protector...that is the metal lead! Lead protects us from the other poisonous things like X rays and Radio active materials. Metallic lead is the most effective stopper of all harmful radiations. It is totally opaque to them.

So the gloves, and aprons worn by the persons working with these harmful radiations are made from rubber mixed with lead. They are heavy no doubt but offer good protection.

In atomic power plants, glass containing lead monoxide acts as an effective screen. Lead glass one meter thick and weighing more than one and a half tons forms the port hole in atomic power plants.We can see through them but the radiations do not reach us.

Lead is present only in small quantities on the earth's crust and yet it was known to human beings as early as 7000 to 5000 B.C. Want to know how it was possible?

Forests fires in areas rich in lead deposits melt them down, The molten lead collects to form small pools of lead, which then cool and solidify forming nuggets of lead.

During the excavation in the city of Ashur, archaeologists discovered a lump of lead weighing 400 kilo grams.It was dated back to 1300 B.C!

Now it is time to find out how the ages of rocks and relics are calculated from a given sample.

( To be continued)
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Lead # 6.[/FONT]

One of the methods employed in determining the age of mountain rocks and other archaeological relics makes use of lead. [FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Most rocks contai[/FONT]
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]n small amounts of Radio Active Elements.

The natural cycle lasting over thousands of years cause some of the Radio Active Elements decay and some others to be formed. This process results in the formation of Radium which in turn disintegrates to form lead.

By knowing the amount of of Radium in the sample rock, and the amount of lead formed every year, the age of the sample can be calculated.

It involves a factor called the "Half life" or the "Half Period Life". Half life is the period of time it takes for a Radio Active substance to decrease to half its original mass.This is different for different substances.

Black core pencils are called as Lead Pencils. But you will be surprised to know that they do not contain lead.
How and why did it get that name then?[/FONT]
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Lead part 7.

Lead sticks were used for writing in olden times. In the 16th Century an enormous deposit of Graphite was discovered in England. It was found to be very useful to mark the sheep.

Chemistry was at its infancy at that time.So the people got confused and mistook the Graphite to be a lead ore.Now even though the pencils are being made from Graphite, the name lead pencil clings on to it.

Lead compounds are used in medicine as astringents, antiseptics and analgesics. Lead is used in all kinds of soldering since its melting point is just 327 degrees C.

Lead is used as the sheathing for electric cables and as the inner surface of the chambers and towers in the production of chemicals and non ferrous metals.

It is used to make cut glass and glass with a special glaze. Lead is indispensable in the production of paints, varnish and type metal.

Lead forms the border separating the radio active and the non radio Active elements. The atomic number of lead is 82.

All the elements with their atomic numbers higher than that of lead disintegrate spontaneously until they get converted to lead. This property is extremely useful in Archeological and Geological studies.

Lead is a protector-cum-killer and a medicine-cum-poison!
It is the most controversial metal in the history of mankind.
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[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Gold part # 1.

Gold is the most brilliant and the most sinister metal known to man! It had influenced human history and caused bloody wars, arson, looting, and other heinous crimes which have been committed to win this yellow metal.

In Tamil it is called as "Aatkolli" meaning "slayer of human beings". It is one of the three desires a man should guard himself from! The other two are power and women.

Extreme greed and its harrowing consequences are best conveyed by the story of King Midas. He sought a rare boon from Dionysus, the God of wine, that whatever he touched should be transformed into pure gold. He was thrilled to find that everything he laid hand up on was transformed into pure gold-until it was his dinner time!

When the royal food and drink he touched transformed to gold it became quiet another story. He begged the God to take back his boon. A combination of unlimited greed and utter lack of imagination! Can any one eat or drink Gold?

But one can live in a gold palace, sleep on a gold cot and bathe in a gold tub!

Here is the story of the gold bath tub!
(To be continued)
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Gold part # 2.

A bath tub of pure gold was installed in a fashionable hotel in Funabara resort by the Japanese tourist agency Fuji Kanko. An astronomical fee was charged to take a dip in the pool of water in the gold tub. But it did not discourage the tourists who wished a royal dip fit for a king!

The people who came up with this very original idea were themselves surprised by the overwhelming success of this project. They started raking an enormous profit.

Their success was so great that the next project they contemplated was installing gold toilet bowls in their hotels.

Vanity ! Thy name is human! Bathing and gargling in gold tubs and bowls! Ready to pay through the nose to take a shot at the gold pot! The business is the same, the product is the same. Yet I suppose Gold is Gold!

The major worry of the resort owners was to make sure that the users of the tub do not take away pieces of the tub as souvenirs.

An army of detectives were employed to make sure that no tool of any sort was secretly smuggled into the bathroom by the prospective collectors of souvenirs.

Yet one invincible woman tired her best to bite off a piece of the tub as result of which she landed in great dental and mental troubles.

(To be continued...)
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Gold part # 3.

The history of Gold is the history of civilization. To win the favor of Gods, The Queen of Assyria had ordered two enormous sculptures of the gods in pure gold. One of the statues was 12 meters high and required 30 tons of gold for making it.

The second statue was even more awesome. Goddess Rhea was sculptured sitting on her throne guarded by two majestic lions on either side of the throne. An astounding 250 tons of gold went into the statue! (250x1000x1000 grams @ ~ Rs 2000 per gram!). Its value today will be mind blowing indeed!

The first gold coin appeared about 2500 years ago. Lydia was the first country to produce the gold coins-thanks to the slaves who worked relentlessly. Lydia in
West Asia Minor had trade relations with Greece and her other neighbours in the East.

For the sake of convenience in measuring, transporting and handling gold, stamped gold coins were minted. The coin had the image of a running fox on one side. It was the symbol of the chief Lydian God Bassaereious.

When Lydia was conquered by the Persian King Cyrus, gold coinage spread to the other countries of the middle east.
(To be continued...)
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Gold part # 4.

Blue beard and his friend.

Hunting for Gold became an universal obsession with people. Everybody wanted gold from every conceivable object by any method! Attempts to transmute baser metals into gold became a flourishing branch of Al chemistry.

A relentless search was unleashed to discover the miraculous "Philosopher's Stone'-a touch with which could convert baser metals to gold! General suspicion, mistrust, jealousy and rivalry prompted people to make ridiculous and impossible accusations.

In 1440, Blue Beard ( Gilles de Laval, Baron de Rais) and his loyal friend Fransula Prelatti were charged with the murder of 800 maidens from whose blood they were accused of extracting gold.

Blue Beard and his friend were turned over to Inquisition on the insistence of the Bishop of Nantes.They were pronounced guilty and were burnt at the stake-a common practice in those days.

But five centuries later, in 1925, excavation of the castle where Blue beard had lived revealed a vein of gold bearing quartz. It was from that vein that the Blue Beard and his friend had been extracting gold and not from the blood of 800 pretty maidens!

(To be continued...)
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Gold part # 5.

The twin horses...a Fact or a Fable?

Batu Khan (1205 -1255) was a Mongol ruler and the founder of Ulus of Jochi (of Golden Horde). He was the son of Jochi and the grandson of Genghis Khan.

He had amassed enormous wealth during his conquest. He ordered two magnificent life size horses to be cast in gold. Each horse required one and half tons of gold!

These twin horses were erected in Sarai-Batu, the Capital of the Golden Horde, to symbolize the great power of Batu Khan.He was succeeded by his brother Khan Berke.

Khan Berke constructed his own magnificent new capital at Sarai-Berke. The twin Gold horses were moved and erected in the new capital. We can't help wondering how the slaves dismantled, handled, transported and erected the horses weighing a ton and a half each-with no mechanical devices to help them, save their combined strength.

The horses passed from a Khan to his successor.When Khan Mamai died, he was buried with one of the two horses.
The fate of its twin was different.

A batch of Russian warriors broke into the new capital Sara-Burke and took away the second horse.When pursued by a party to retrieve the stolen horse, of the Russians hid the horse at the bottom of a steppe river and fought.
They all got killed and the secret of the gold horse died with them.

At the end of the 14th century, the armies of Timur made an extensive and exhaustive search for the gold horse buried with Mamai Khan and found nothing.

The very existence of the gold twin horses is now doubted. The folk tales confirm their existence but to this day their whereabouts remain an unsolved mystery!
(to be continued...)
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Gold part # 6.

The gold fever.

When the presence of gold ores was discovered in some parts of the world, thousands of people rushed there stricken by the gold fever.They lost the last trace of humanity in them and became nothing better than greedy wolves.

Brothers killed one another and sons killed their fathers for a nugget or even a grain of this yellow metal! This happened in Brazil in the 18th century. It was repeated in California in the 19th century.Australia, South Africa and Alaska got added to the list of places flocked by the prospective gold hunters!

Kings, Queens and aristocrats duly impressed the commoners with a display of their wealth-by flashing gold and silver. Gold was used to make tobacco boxes set with precious gems!

One prince owned a royal coach which was draped with the finest silk and had wheels bordered by silver. The horses drawing this coach wore gold horse shoes!

Numerous chests filled to the brim with gold coins were found in the possession of the aristocrats and royal kings and queens, after their deaths.

(to be continued...)
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Gold part # 7.

Gold from sea water?

It is estimated that more than 50,000 tons of gold has been mined by mankind so far. Geologists estimate that there are a hundred thousand million tons of gold on earth's crust (100x1000x1000000x1000 kilograms)

Another ten thousand million tons of gold
(10x1000x1000000x1000 kilograms) are found in the water of the oceans and the seas. Rivers flowing through the gold bearing regions keep depositing more and more gold into the oceans all the time.

[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]The river Amur alone is said to throw not less than 8500 kilograms of gold into the Pacific ocean every year.[/FONT]
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]
The Amur river is located on the continent of Asia,forming the border between Far East Russia and the North East China. It is the ninth longest river in the world measuring 2744 miles.

Attempts are being made to harvest gold from the oceans and seas.When this becomes a reality water bodies will become an inexhaustible source of gold in the future.

(To be continued)
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Gold part # 8.

Gold from other sources!

Bio metallurgy means extraction of gold from living organisms. Gold devouring bacterias have been discovered. Certain mold fungi can suck gold out of solutions containing gold. In this process they get covered by a thin layer of gold. If this thin gold film is dried and roasted, it yields pure gold.

Gold eating bugs or the 'Midas Bugs' are known to exist. Bacterium Ralstonia metallidurans survive in solutions containing dissolved gold-which is usually toxic to most micro organisms.

They can extract gold from the solution containing gold. They extract energy from the solution for their own purpose. The free gold is a waste product formed-so to say the microbial excreta!

These bugs are known to survive in very high temperatures.
This bacteria alchemy in gold may open up new avenues for the bio processing of gold from their solutions.

Bio leaching is the extraction of specific metals from their ores, by the living organisms. It is one of the several applications of Bio hydro metallurgy.

If a suitable method is formulated, bio metallurgy will become a cheap and inexhaustible source of gold extracted from the oceans.
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Gold # 9.

Nuclear Alchemy!

Today it is possible to convert other metals into gold-thanks to Nuclear Physics.The millennium old dream of the alchemists has come true at last!

No philosopher's stone has been discovered or invented. Yet the conversion has become a reality. By bombarding Iridium, Palladium, Mercury and Thallium using neutrons in an atomic reactor, radio active gold can be artificially produced.

Particle accelerators may also be employed for this nuclear bombardment, but the cost of the gold produced will be hiked further since we need very high energy for the particle accelerators.

The artificial gold formed by nuclear transmutation costs much more than the market price of gold! Also the gold produced thus is radioactive. To be of use, we have to produce the one and only stable isotope of gold viz AU(197).

Gold can be produced by the bombardment of Platinum. But since Platinum is costlier than gold, it does not make any sense to produce gold in this method!

(to be continued...)
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Gold part # 10.

Properties of Gold.

Pure gold is very soft and pliant! A small gold nugget the size of a match head can be drawn into a continuous wire 3 kilometers long!

It can be beaten into a transparent bluish green gold leaf 50 square meters in area-enough to cover the entire flooring of a modern mini flat (of about 530 sq feet floor area).

We can scratch the pure metal with our nail. Now we can understand what prompted the invincible woman to try to bite a piece off the gold bath tub. If you can scratch it... you might also be able to bite through it!

Jewelers add Copper/ Silver/ Nickel/ Cadmium/ Palladium to make the gold stronger, sturdier and easier to work with. Pure gold gets wasted in the form of fine gold dust.

The most amazing property of gold is its chemical resistance. It is not affected by either the acids or by the alkalies. It does not get oxidized or tarnished as silver does. Only Aqua Regia-a mixture of Nitric acid and Hydrochloric acid, can dissolve the gold!

Do you know the famous incident in which this property of Aqua Regia was put to practical use?

(To be continued)
How the Nobel prizes were saved!

When Germany invaded Denmark in World War II, the Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy dissolved the gold Nobel prizes of the German physicists Max von Laue and James Franck in aqua regia to prevent the Nazis from confiscating them.

The German government had prohibited Germans from accepting or keeping any Nobel Prize after the jailed peace activist Carl von Ossietzky had received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1935.

De Hevesy placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute.It was subsequently ignored by the Nazis who thought the jar—one of perhaps hundreds on the shelving—contained common chemicals.

After the end of the World War II, De Hevesy returned to find the solution undisturbed and precipitated the gold out of the acid. The gold was returned to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Nobel Foundation who recast the medals and again presented them to Laue and Franck.

Solid gold was rendered invisible to the eyes by dissolving it in Aqua Regia and the medals were saved!

(to be continued..)
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Gold Part # 12.

The story of "Eureka!"

Syracuse King Hieron had ordered for a new crown to be made by his court jeweler. A man handling honey is sure to lick his fingers and a tailor can't help stealing part of the costly cloth of his clients. Could the jeweler be trusted absolutely?

The King was riddled by these doubts and entrusted the task finding the purity of the gold in his crown to Archimedes.Gold is a very heavy metal!. Its density
(the ratio of its mass/volume) is 19.3!

If Archimedes could find the density of the metal in the crown, he would know the purity of Gold. He already knew that mass of the crown. But how on earth was he supposed to find the volume of a fancy crown-the volume of which would not come under any known formula? He could not destroy the crown just to check its purity!

Now everyone of us know the story behind "Eureka!" Archimedes must have had his bath in his tub everyday of his life. But on one eventful day he discovered his famous Archimedes principle.Necessity is the mother of invention- no doubt!

As he entered the bathtub, excess water overflowed and when he left the tub, it was only partly filled.So the volume of the expelled water must have been the volume of his own body! So here was a fool proof method to find the volume of an object of any irregular shape!

Archimedes found the volume of the water expelled when the crown was immersed in a vessel filled to its brim. He proved that the jeweler had indeed stolen some of the gold given by the king and replaced it by cheaper metals.

Further development of this lead to the concept of the apparent loss of weight felt in a liquid (caused by the buoyancy) and the relative densities of liquids using the very same principle of Archimedes.

We just saw the story of a clever scientist. We will see the story of a clever citizen tomorrow!
(To be continued...)
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Gold part # 13.

The clever citizen!

An interesting event took place towards the end of the 19th century in U.S,A.

An ancient church in Philadelphia was undergoing repairs. A local citizen offered a huge sum of 3000 U.S.D for the roof of the church which was to be pulled down.

The roof was so old and dilapidated that the Church authorities thought that the man was out of his mind!

Had it happened in India, we would have wondered and pondered until we found the real reason behind this unreasonable generosity on the part of a stranger.

But since they were not wordly-wise, they readily agreed to this offer -before the man could change his mind!

It was soon proved as to who were really out of their minds!.

The buyer of the roof, scraped off the paint on the roof and burned it to get 8,000 grams of pure Gold! The church stood very close to the mint in Philadelphia and all that gold dust had got deposited on the roof over the long period.

Now it was the turn of the Church authorities to look crestfallen and fooled!

(to be continued...)
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Gold # 14.

Meticulous with a motive?

There was "Method in the madness" of Prince Hamlet according to William Shakespeare. Meticulous people are very methodical too. Does this conceal real madness or a secret motive? We will soon find out.

Before the First World War, many countries had gold coins in circulation.A big European bank would receive thousands of gold coins everyday-to be sorted out, counted and sealed in paper.Special tables were used for this purpose.

A cashier would always spread a piece of cloth on his table before getting down to his business. After his work, he would fold and put away the cloth for the night. Every weekend he would take it home with him and come with a fresh piece of cloth on Monday.

The owners of the bank were very pleased to see this kind of model behavior of the clerk and advocated the others to follow the method.

The mystery of his meticulously model behavior was soon found out. His maid servant revealed the secret that her master would burn the cloth on a frying pan every weekend.

He would get a tiny nugget of the precious yellow metal- his weekly bonus (!) from the gold dust sticking to the fibers of his cloth used during week!

(To be continued..)
[FONT=comic sans ms,sans-serif]Gold # 15.

A King or an eternal prisoner?

Gold is named as the 'King of Metals"'and the 'Metal of the Kings. Is it really a King or a life-long-prisoner? Gold lies buried under ground. It is mined out and cast in to bars and again locked up in inaccessible places, armor plated safes, underground dungeons, protected by several barbed wire fencing carrying 5000volts as in Fort Knox.

Not even the most wicked criminal in the world is given this kind of security and guarded so vigilantly by the electronic eyes-which do not even have to blink!

A small amount of gold is used by dentists. Industries have started using more and more gold. Electronics consumes gold for the transistors and diodes. Gold platinum alloy is used in the construction of equipments for synthetic fiber plants.

Nuclear Physics uses Gold Seals effectively to seal off all the loopholes through which air can enter into the accelerator cavities, in the vital units of accelerators for charged particles. A high vacuum of the order of thousand-millionth of an atmospheric pressure (1/1000,000,000 of atmospheric pressure) can be achieved.

Gold can contribute to the exploration of outer space. Gold can ensure efficient thermal regulation used as the satellites sheathing. It is transparent to ions. So the danger of ion accumulation resulting in various emergencies may be avoided.

Tomorrow we will complete the series of articles on Gold with a story of the senseless greed of man for gold.

A king's barber was very happy and well to do. While walking through a forest he heard the voice of a yakshA offering to present him with seven pots of gold.

The barber accepted the offer of the yakshA and was overwhelmed to find the seven pots of gold coins in his house. Six pots were full but the seventh was only half full.

He decided to fill it up at any cost.

He sold all his properties and jewels, bought gold coins and put them in the jar.

He did everything he could think of, including begging, but he could not fill the seventh jar.

The king noticed the change in the barber's behavior and asked him whether he had accepted seven pots of gold from a yakshA.

The barber was surprised by the king's question. The king advised him to return the jars as those gold coins could never be spent by any one and will ruin the house where they are placed.

The barber told the yakshA to take back his pots of gold. The seven pots disappeared magically, but along with the gold coins deposited by the barber.

He is left penniless, defeated and tired because of his greed!
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