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How gold connects humans to cosmos

Nandkumar Kamat

Is it not an exciting thought that the gold that people use is 4600 million years old and had its origin somewhere else in the galaxy? If we run the clock of our solar system back then we can see that 5000 million years ago it was just a spinning disc of gas and dust bombarded by radiation. This cloud had its own circum-galactic motion taking 225 million years for one orbital cycle around our Milky Way Galaxy. Currently we are completing the 23rd cycle.

The ancient Greeks believed that chaos gives rise to cosmos. New research on collapsers or collapsing neutron stars has shown the origin of gold and other heavy elements. In simple terms the gold which we all use is not terrestrial. It came from outside the earth, outside the solar system when the spinning cloud of gas and dust was bombarded by gold atoms in a gigantic explosion, one thousand light years away. This event occurred 4600 million years ago when the primitive system was about to complete its second cycle in the Milky Way and our sun was very young. The age of earth is 4540 to 4570 million years. So there was adequate time for the hot earth to assimilate heavy elements like gold in its crust.

On October 7, 2012 in my article ‘Biophotonics of Cosmic Gold’, I had mentioned that the typical adult has about 20 million trillion gold atoms in the body. Gold is a neutron rich heavy element. Our five billion years old solar system was born out of the ashes of a supernova. But the relative average abundance of elements in our solar system doesn’t explain a simple stellar origin of gold. Some astronomers believe that collisions of neutron stars created gold accompanied by a burst of short duration gamma-rays- the most powerful event in universe. If this is true then we are basically dealing with a unique element created in unique collisions in unique, extremely violent cosmic phenomena.

That was in 2012 but now evidence has been found about the cosmic origin of gold. In 2013, NASA detected a burst of radiation 3900 million light years away from the constellation Leo and found that it was caused by colliding neutron stars, leaving behind an observable radioactive glow which indicated synthesis of heavy metals like gold and platinum. Neutron-star mergers are rare and have been estimated to only occur a few times per million years in the Milky Way.

Szabolcs Marka from Columbia University and Imra Bartos from the University of Florida published a paper in science weekly ‘Nature’ this month titled ‘A nearby neutron-star merger explains the actinide abundances in the early Solar System’. They studied the possibility of neutron stars producing heavy elements by combining real-life observations and mathematical modeling and by comparing the radioactive elements preserved in ancient meteorites with numerical computer simulations of neutron star mergers at various points in history. They claimed that at 1000 light years from our Earth, two neutron stars collided violently 4600 million years ago and this violent event released several metals which we find on Earth. Their paper mentions that “a growing body of evidence indicates that binary neutron-star mergers are the primary origin of heavy elements produced exclusively through rapid neutron capture (the ‘r-process’). As neutron-star mergers occur infrequently, their deposition of radioactive isotopes into the pre-solar nebula could have been dominated by a few nearby events. Although short-lived r-process isotopes—with half-lives shorter than 100 million years—are no longer present in the solar system, their abundances in the early solar system are known because their daughter products were preserved in high-temperature condensates found in meteorites.”

The new theory suggests that about 0.3 percent of the heaviest elements on Earth originated in neutron star collisions. When Earth was cooling the molten iron core also drew in most of the heavy elements including gold and platinum and it is estimated that if these elements are removed and spread on the surface of the Earth evenly, the layer would be four meters in thickness. Meteorites crash landing in Antarctica have been found to contain definite signatures of radioisotopes which can be explained only by invoking violent r-process.

The paper by Marka and Bartos ignited so much global media interest past week that people started making connection of gold in wedding rings to the cosmic event. A scientist said at least 10 milligrams gold in any wedding ring is 4600 million years old. An astronomer rushed to explain the origin of gold atoms in human brains to these cosmic events. Gold and copper ions in our brains are known to improve conduction of electrobiochemical signals between neurons. That explains why many cultures use edible forms of gold. Wearing gold is known to have beneficial health effects.  But just to think of gold as human bridge to cosmos causes a sense of wonder even among the scientists. Szabolcs Marka told the media –“our results address a fundamental quest of humanity: Where did we come from and where are we going. It is very difficult to describe the tremendous emotions we felt when we realised what we had found and what it means for the future as we search for an explanation of our place in the universe.”

Aurophilic or gold loving humans can now connect to cosmos with this new discovery and new cosmic vision. Exchanging wedding rings will now acquire a new, deep cosmic meaning.

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