Sample Speech # 2

Nonmonetary Uses of Gold

by Christa Kim

In this speech about an object or phenomenon (gold), student Christa Kim reveals a “treasure trove” of new information about the world's most venerated metal. Kim's speech is organized topically, in which the main points describe gold's various properties and applications.

            King Midas was desperately poor but had a good heart. As a reward for his compassion, the gods granted him a single wish, and King Midas, seeking to alleviate his poverty, immediately wished that everything he touched would turn into solid gold.

            The story illustrates the point that, like King Midas, when we think of gold, we too usually focus only on the monetary value of it, whether it is the gold bricks in Fort Knox or expensive jewelry.

            What we don't realize is that gold plays a much bigger role in all of our lives. So tonight we are going to explore the nonmonetary uses of gold. To do this, we will first unearth the unique properties of this metal. We will then see how these characteristics have panned out in the medical field to both prevent and alleviate diseases. Finally, we will sift through some applications made by NASA. Now, the first unique characteristic of gold is its extreme density.

            When we usually think of dense elements, we think of lead, which is extremely dense. In fact, lead is so dense that whenever we get an X-ray, we wear a lead apron to protect us from radiation. Well, gold, according to the 1996 Macmillan Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences, is one and a half times more dense than lead.

            Engineers have already taken advantage of this characteristic by using extremely thin films of gold to coat electronic switches and relays. In telephones, for example, there are over thirty-three of these gold-plated contacts, which work within the main component of the phone, the diaphragm, to transform electric signals into sound.

            Now, besides being one of the most dense of all metals, gold is also one of the most ductile, which means that it can be easily stretched while maintaining its shape. The Gold Institute states that gold is so ductile that a single ounce can be drawn out into a thin wire over five miles long. The Minerals Yearbook, published by the U.S. Department of the Interior, claims that these thin gold wires are essential to the manufacture of every single computer and that other electronics, such as televisions and VCRs, also depend on these thin gold wires to process messages and sounds.

            Not only is gold one of the most dense and ductile of all metals, it's also the least corrosive. According to the Joint Research Center for Atom Technology, as reported in the June 5, 1994, issue of Nature, gold's surface structure provides little or no room for bonding. Now, what this means is that molecules tend to slip away, without chemically affecting, or latching onto, gold's surface. This is why we can never find any gold with any rust or mold.

            Now, combined, these characteristics set the stage for many applications within the health and medical field. For example, gold is being used to treat lagophthalmos. Lagophthalmos is a condition caused by disease or injury that leads to the inability to close the eye because the eyelid muscle is too weak. In the past, doctors would have had to use a needle and thread to physically sew the eyelids shut in order to keep the eyes from drying out.

            But now, according to Dr. Donald J. Bergen at the Southeastern Eye Center for North Carolina, doctors are able to utilize the dense and noncorrosive qualities of gold in the form of a gold implant.

            These implants, weighing between 0.6 and 1.6 grams, are surgically inserted into the upper lid of the eye and work with gravity to give the eye the extra weight it needs in order to close properly. And what's more, because gold is so noncorrosive, it will not react with the human tear—the reason why, in the United States alone, more than 15,000 patients are able to benefit from the use of this procedure. But gold isn't used only to treat conditions like lagophthalmos. It's also being used to treat diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Gold has been used in the treatment of this painful disease since 1927, when European physicians first discovered that injecting gold compounds into the body alleviated pain. The Arthritis Foundation states that when gold is injected into the human body, it affects the process of the disease that causes joint pain and swelling and in so doing lessens the chance of joint deformity and disability. This procedure has been so effective that the January 22, 1997, issue of The Lancet calls gold vital to the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

            The medical industry isn't the only one that is able to take advantage of gold's unique characteristics. NASA is also using gold in several different ways in space. One is in the area of communication. According to Ned Rozell from the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, satellites in space depend on gold to process static-free signals when broadcasting messages back from Earth. In fact, the Pathfinder, the robotic geologist developed by NASA, which recently took photographs of rocks and soil on Mars, wouldn't have been able to relay its findings back to Earth without the use of gold circuitry.

            Besides enabling communication in space, gold also aids in the exploration of space in two unique ways. The first way takes advantage of gold's noncorrosiveness. The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska states that fine powder gold makes the world's best lubricant for rocket engines. It makes the best lubricant because unlike oil, gold does not inevitably break down from solar radiation or evaporation.

            The second way that gold aids in the exploration of space takes advantage of gold's extreme density. According to a 1997 exhibit at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum, a gold coating of only six millionths of an inch thick can reflect away all heat, all light, and all radiation. As seen here, this astronaut's helmet, suit, and visor are completely coated with gold to shield and protect the astronaut from harmful radiation. Gold, therefore, has become a critical element in space travel.

            In addition to enabling communication and exploration in space, gold, believe it or not, is also working to preserve a bit of our own culture. Once formed, gold maintains its shape whatever the environmental conditions. It is for this reason that gold was the material selected to press the record Sounds of Earth, which, according to Carl Sagan in his book Cosmos, was sent aboard the Voyager spacecraft in 1977 and is only now exiting our solar system. The record jacket gives instructions in scientific notation for how to play the record, while the record itself contains information about Earth's cultures and civilizations.

            Included on this record is information about our genes, our anatomy, and our DNA. The record includes greetings from over sixty different cultures as well as music. We placed the record on Voyager with the hope that a bit of our culture would be preserved and perhaps even found by distant beings. And because gold is so durable, this golden record, which tells so much about the planet's journey through space and time, will long outlive all life on Earth.

            While gold will continue to play an important role monetarily, it should now be clear that the nonmonetary uses of gold have a huge impact on our daily lives. On Earth, doctors are able to utilize the characteristics of density, ductility, and noncorrosiveness to treat conditions such as lagophthalmos, rheumatoid arthritis, and potentially even the HIV virus. In space, NASA is able to utilize these very same characteristics to enable satellite communication and exploration and to preserve a bit of our own culture. It should now be apparent that these doctors, researchers, and engineers who are using gold in nonmonetary ways to enrich our everyday lives truly do possess the real Midas touch.

Discussion Questions

1.  What is the general purpose of this speech? What is the specific purpose?

2.  How does the speaker capture the audience's attention?

3.  Based on Kim's use of a topical organizational pattern, identify her three main points.

4.  What kind of support materials did the speaker use to support her main points?

5.  What technique does the speaker use to end her speech with impact?

6.  Did the speaker adhere to the goals and strategies of effective informative speaking?