A uranium-containing mineral known as ewingite, originally found in a damp mine wall in the Czech Republic has a structure almost twice as complex as any previously known mineral. The complexity of a mineral is measured in terms of bits per unit cell. Most minerals have a complexity of just over 200. Most complex minerals rank at around 1000 bits but these account for a mere 2.5% of known minerals. Ewingite packs almost 13000 bits into its unit cell. The mineral has the formula: Mg8Ca8(UO2)24(CO3)30O4(OH)12.138H2O and Peter Burns of the University of Notre Dame and colleagues who have studied its structure are intrigued to know whether it would have existed naturally until humans opened up this mine. The mine, incidentally, is in the same region that provided radioactive materials for Marie Curie's pioneering scientific experiments.
Why so complicated?