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Microcrystal Roundup

April 11, 2008

Tiny microcrystals can tell us about the geological history of continents, and they also affect the health of the planet.


Tiny crystals that see into the past. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

An international team of researchers has discovered tiny zircon microcrystals that formed three billion years ago. According to team leader Desmond Moser at the University of Western Ontario, each crystal took two hundred million years to grow, yet it measures no more than the width of a human hair. Close examination revealed rings, like the rings in the trunk of a tree, that can tell the researchers much about the conditions of the earth billons of years ago.

There’s other microcrystal news: in the journal Science, researchers describe how tiny crystals are having a huge effect on the climate and ecology of the planet. Airborne nanocrystals carry both nutrients and pollutants around the globe. They even play a variety of roles inside living cells. Making the study of nanocrystals a hot new area of research. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.