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Muller's lab has successfully captured many other images of atoms in gold and computer chips, oxygen, powerful magnets and even glass.But, even so, they've barely scratched the surface, because they can discern only the outermost boundaries around atoms. If the outer boundary of a hydrogen atom, where the electron is found, were enlarged to be two miles wide, about the size of a city, the single proton in its nucleus would be the size of a golf ball.This is what can happen if the amount of tin isn't right.No one is certain why the Liberty Bell cracked, but a chemical analysis indicated there was too much tin and perhaps other impurities in the bronze. Can we crack the code to build the world of the future? By digging, these guys are hoping to strike it rich. I'm on a quest to understand the basic building blocks of everyday matter. These symbols represent the atoms that make up every single thing in our universe: 118 unique substances arranged on an amazing chart that reveals their hidden secrets to anyone who knows how to read it. It turns out that nature has concealed thousands of pounds of the stuff under billions of cubic feet of earth. Gold has been sought since ancient times, yet all the gold ever mined would fit into a single cube about 60 feet on a side. It was a sacred material to ancient people, and it's never lost its luster. Only a few natural elements have greater density than gold: rhenium, platinum, iridium and osmium. Like all elements, gold is an atom that gets its identity from tiny particles: positively charged protons in the nucleus, balanced by negatively charged electrons all around, plus neutrons, which have no charge at all. It's virtually indestructible, yet also soft and malleable.
They're the hidden ingredients of everything in our world, from the carbon in our bodies to the metals in our smartphones. The good news is that we haven't finished; there may be still gold hiding in the mix. And, today, it's one of the most widely bought and sold metals in the world. Copper is in wire, electronics and computer chips, plumbing and other building materials. These guys can trade their copper futures; I've got to unload my copper today. In pure metals, the atoms are arranged in orderly rows and columns.Using cyanide to react with the gold allows them to gradually reduce 40,000-gallon tanks of pulverized sludge to this: three trays full of mud? This is the first time an outsider has been allowed to pour gold. I'm not sure they entirely know what they are doing, but they are going to let me pour the gold into a gold bar mold. They'll have to throw it away or just let me take it home in my luggage. Once he removes the aluminum and joins the two halves, a bell-shaped space remains on the inside, ready to accept the molten bronze. That's a, that's a mixture, actually, of 80 percent copper and 20 percent tin. A blow causes the atoms to vibrate, but the tin prevents them from moving too far out of position.Tin is good for a bell, but only in the right proportion.To unlock their secrets, David Pogue, technology columnist and lively host of NOVA's popular "Making Stuff" series, spins viewers through the world of weird, extreme chemistry: the strongest acids, the deadliest poisons, the universe's most abundant elements, and the rarest of the rare—substances cooked up in atom smashers that flicker into existence for only fractions of a second. Yet everything we know, the stars, the planets and life, itself, comes from about 90 basic building blocks,… …all right here, on this remarkable chart: the periodic table of the elements. And we're made, almost entirely, of just a handful of ingredients, including one that burns with secret fire inside us all. The sample, mixed with a lead oxide powder, goes into a furnace heated to 2,000 degrees. Using extreme heat, gold atoms are gradually coaxed away from the powdered rock. Turns out that an ounce per ton is pretty much optimal for the underground mine. The New York Mercantile Exchange is a vital hub in the global metals market, which is pretty good news for me. (Commodities Trader): Oh, this is an old, old business. It's so important that the rise and fall of copper prices provide a snapshot of the health of the entire world economy. Each atom gives up some of its electrons to create a kind of sea of these randomly moving charged particles.
It's a story that begins with the Big Bang and eventually leads to us. Join me as I explore the basic building blocks of the universe… …to the least—manmade elements that last only fractions of a second; strange metals with repellant powers;… So, after all that pulverizing and crushing and weighing and firing, what we're left with is this? Eighteen hundred dollars times…720,000 bucks a truck! The surface mine produces less, about half an ounce per ton. This goes back to the 1800s, the late 1800s, where farmers were looking, actually, for money to plant their next year's crops. We use it for infrastructure; we use it for electronic goods. When times are bad, copper prices tumble, and when times are good, they soar. It's these free-flowing electrons that make metals conductive.
And I wouldn't mind taking a look at these under your magic microscope. Scientists have understood, since the early 20th century, that metals are crystals; that is, they have an orderly arrangement of atoms. They're, they're like a little aerial photo of a planned community. The atoms in our bronze are unusually well ordered.