A Word In Edgewise: Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Stars

It took a hundred years for technology to prove Einstein’s prediction of the existence of magnetic waves. Now, centuries after alchemists labored to create gold from base metals, after scientists determined that gold itself was an element, we find, after a lag of 130 million light years, that the alchemists were on to something.

Right in their concept, perhaps, but wide of the mark on what gold-making required, only recently has the galactic scope of the process been observed. The Philosopher’s Stone doesn’t exist, but now we have LIGO.

Like gravitational waves, newly minted gold is spawned during the collision of two neutron stars, which event was detected by LIGO, the giant Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory that recorded the predicted existence of magnetic waves in 2016. In fact, according to The Atlantic Magazine, this squeezing of the “fabric of the universe” produced 10,000 Earth-masses of various precious heavy elements in all, adding that a teaspoon of neutron star would weigh some ten million tons.

Consider the 130 million light-years that flash took to reach Terra. Dinosaurs perished 65,000,000 ordinary years ago; that figure, expressed as a percentage of just one light-year (5.9 trillion miles) is seen to be a fly-speck .001101694%. While light-years are a measure of distance, the numbers do show the infinitesimal distance light would travel between illuminating the dinos’ death throes and the Astros celebrating this year’s World Series.

As that flash from galaxy NGC 4993 spread, humans emerged, learned to walk upright, use fire and tools, and kill one another in incrementally ingenious and cataclysmic ways. Young Einstein jotted down “E=MC2” and predicted the existence of gravitational waves. Another fractional moment, and LIGO registered their existence, and now our knowledge of how gold is born.

Here on our small planet, circling our average sun, we scramble to make sense of the universe and our fellow man, factions claiming to have the answer eager to exterminate “others.” We, like the dinos, may be obliterated in a flash, or we may orchestrate our own dissolution. Earth will continue to spin around old Sol, new life forms will evolve to have their moment in the sun. The benign, indifferent universe doesn’t care. It’s seen bigger, brighter, better—and it can always make more gold.

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