Earth’s Stash of Gold Comes From Colliders Fit for Gods – Facts So Romantic

Ron Dale via Shutterstock

One of science’s greatest feats is having described where we came from—not as individual people, or as a species, or even as a planet, but as stuff, the very material we’re made of. The Big Bang forged all of the basic particles of our lives—electrons and the quarks that make up protons and neutrons. The entire cosmos at that early time was creating matter out of the primordial chaos. But the powerful furnace cooled off as the Universe expanded, that initial round of cooking having produced no substantial numbers of atoms heavier than lithium, the third-lightest element. If the Universe had stopped creating there, it would have been pretty damn boring.

In a story so appealing and familiar that it’s practically bedtime comfort reading (for astronomers, anyway), dying stars supplied the rest of the matter in the cosmos. Supernovas and other powerful processes in the outer layers of dying stars welded small nuclei together, building heavier and heavier atomic nuclei. That observation inspired Carl Sagan’s famous line: We—and all the other objects of our daily lives—are star stuff. 

But that romantic story isn’t quite complete. Certain heavy nuclei aren’t…
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