The Kid Should See This

How is gold made?

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Gold is traditionally used for making jewelry or decorative items. Its characteristics—malleability, ductility, resistance to corrosion and other chemical reactions, and conductivity of electricity—also make it useful in electronics, dentistry, and aerospace.

But throughout history, long before these modern uses, “people have gone to extraordinary lengths to get their hands on this most precious substance.” The key to this high profile element’s value is that it is rare.

“All the gold mined from the earth in all of human history would only just fill three Olympic-sized swimming pools, and it’s that scarcity that makes gold valuable.”

The scarcity of gold and the heaviest elements is due to the rarity of the conditions required for their creation: Supernova explosions and neutron star collisions.

The temperatures generated by such an event reach 100 billion degrees—the highest temperatures in the universe—creating the proper conditions for these elements to form. The action-packed clip above is from Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe.


“But gold is just one of many rare elements. There are over 60 elements heavier than iron in the universe. Some are valuable like gold, silver, platinum; some are vital for life like copper and zinc, and some are just useful like uranium, tin, and lead. But across the universe, there are vanishingly small amounts of those heavy elements…

“In a galaxy of 100 billion stars, these conditions will exist on average for less than a minute in every century. That’s because they are only created in the final death throes of the very largest stars, stars of at least nine times the mass of our sun. Only they can reach the extreme temperatures needed to create large amounts of the heavy elements.”

supernova from afar
Next: Where did all the gold in the universe come from?

Plus, more about gold and these handpicked videos:
• Golden Kingdoms in the Ancient Americas
• Kintsugi & kintsukuroi: Pottery mending with gold
• The Stacked Ball Drop (and Supernovas)
• We Are Dead Stars. Dr. Michelle Thaller explains

Bonus: The Story Of King Midas, a stop-motion classic by Ray Harryhausen (1953).

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