A Silver Electrode that Synthesizes Tastes

Ordinarily, when precious metals and food mix, the results are rather lackluster for the taste buds. While the presentation is nice, precious metals just have no flavor. However, that could change in the near future.

Scientists at the National University of Singapore have developed a “digital taste interface” that uses a pair of silver electrodes placed on the tongue to synthesize the four major tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, and salty). It works by varying alternating temperature and electrical stimulation in such a way that the taste buds are “fooled” into experiencing a taste sensation. One silver electrode controls the temperature, while the other alternates the electric current.

However, the device still has a long way to go before matching the sensation of real food. The silver electrodes can only simulate taste, not necessarily “flavor” – which is influenced by smell and texture.

Although the device is still in developmental stages, there are many proposed applications. Continuing silver’s history of medical usage, the scientists behind the device suggest that it could be useful for allowing diabetics to taste sweetness without elevating their blood sugar levels. It could also help chemotherapy patients improve their sense of taste – which diminishes during therapy. Outside of healthcare, the taste synthesizer could be used for virtual reality and gaming applications. You may be able to taste your favorite cooking shows in the not-so-distant future!

Gold’s Role in Experimental HIV Treatment

Aurotherapy – the branch of medicine that uses chemical compounds of gold to treat disease – has been around for many years now. However, that doesn’t mean the science behind aurotherapy isn’t advancing. Scientists have theorized that gold could be the key to finding a cure for HIV.

Current antiretroviral therapy for HIV does not target the virus directly. Rather, the goal in a treatment cycle is to reduce the number of cells that contain the viral DNA. With enough treatment, patients can achieve a state where their level of HIV actually falls below detectable levels. However, treatments have never been able to eliminate every single infected cell. Eventually, the virus rebounds and respreads throughout the body necessitating more treatment.

Primarily, gold compounds play a role in the treatment of autoimmune diseases – most notably rheumatoid arthritis. Auranofin, a gold-based oral drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, works by decreasing the pool of central memory T-lymphocytes without affecting the body’s ability to generate new T-lymphocytes. Of these T-cells, central memory CD4+ T-cells pose the biggest roadblock in antiretroviral treatments. CD4+ T-cells live for many years – forming a very long-lasting reservoir of HIV in infected patients.

Italian and American researchers reported in the journal AIDS that, by administering auranofin after intensive antiretroviral therapy in macaque monkeys, they could reduce the population of HIV-infected T-cells without affecting new, uninfected T-cells. This resulted in HIV “remission” for a much longer period of time when compared to treatments that did not incorporate the gold-based drug.

The treatment still needs lots of testing before moving on to clinical trials, but it may lead to a functional cure for HIV. Once again, precious metals play a vital role in the study of medicine.

Eric P. Newman, World’s Greatest Numismatist

If you’re a pawnbroker with an extensive coin collection, or even just getting started with the hobby, you’ve probably heard the name of Eric P. Newman. Still going strong at 103 years old, he is one of the most accomplished numismatists in the world and is considered to be one of the greatest experts in the field.

Newman’s interest in coin collecting began at age seven when his father gave him an 1859 Indian Head cent. Throughout his childhood, he spent his free time in Burdette G. Johnson's coin store in downtown St. Louis. The two formed a mentor-student relationship, which majorly contributed to Newman’s expertise.

In 1936, Newman made it onto the “who’s-who” list of numismatists when his acquaintance, E.H.R. Green passed away. Green was also a numismatist and left behind a sizeable estate. With financial backing from his mentor, Newman and Johnson teamed up to purchase some of the estate’s finest specimens – including the five only known 1913 Liberty Head nickels, which are worth millions of dollars today.

In addition to holding a priceless coin collection, Newman has made significant contributions to the field of numismatics. His books and articles are considered standard reading for serious numismatists and historians of currency. His work in numismatics has earned him multiple awards, including the Heath Literary Award of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), the ANA's Medal of Merit, and the Association's highest honor, the Farran Zerbe Award. In 1986, he was enrolled in the ANA's Hall of Fame and, in 1996, named that organization's “Numismatist of the Year.” In 2006 Washington University in St. Louis opened the Newman Money Museum, which displays a large portion of his collection.

Despite his age and mountain of accomplishments, Newman is still researching, publishing, and contributing to the study of numismatics. If you’re just starting to collect coins, or want to know more about your collection, Newman’s books would be an excellent resource.