Where does gold come from? - David Lunney | Summary and Q&A

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October 8, 2015
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Where does gold come from? - David Lunney

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Summary

In this video, we learn about the extraterrestrial origin of gold and how it is created through supernovae explosions in space. We explore the process of nuclear fusion in stars and how it leads to the formation of heavier elements, including gold. The video also discusses how gold is delivered to Earth through supernova shockwaves and geothermal activity. We then delve into the rarity of gold and the limitations of producing it artificially. Finally, we consider the possibility of finding gold in other locations, such as the ocean and other planets in our solar system.

Questions & Answers

Q: How is gold created in the universe?

Gold is created through the process of nuclear fusion in stars. Initially composed of hydrogen, stars undergo fusion to form heavier elements such as helium, carbon, and oxygen. Through subsequent transformations, the fusion process eventually reaches iron and nickel. When nuclear fusion can no longer release sufficient energy, the star collapses, leading to a supernova explosion. The extreme pressure during this event allows the formation of heavier elements like gold.

Q: How long does it take for gold to be created in a supernova?

While the transformation of hydrogen into heavier elements occurs over millions of years, the creation of the heaviest elements, including gold, takes place in a matter of seconds during a supernova explosion.

Q: What happens to gold after a supernova explosion?

The expanding shockwave of a supernova propels debris containing gold through the interstellar medium. This triggers the condensation of gas and dust into new stars and planets, where the gold becomes embedded. Geothermal activity on Earth eventually kneads the gold into veins, making it accessible for mining.

Q: How rare is gold on Earth?

Gold is considered rare on Earth. In fact, all the gold ever mined in history could be piled into just three Olympic-size swimming pools. Despite this, gold is significantly denser than water, making its mass considerable compared to its volume.

Q: Can gold be artificially produced?

Yes, gold can be produced artificially using particle accelerators. However, these machines can only create gold atom by atom, making the process extremely time-consuming and costly. Producing just one gram of gold in this manner would take nearly the age of the universe and would far exceed the current value of gold.

Q: Where else could we find gold apart from Earth?

While Earth's gold reserves are limited, there are other potential sources of gold. The ocean is estimated to contain around 20 million tons of dissolved gold, but at such low concentrations that the recovery process is currently impractical. It is also possible that other planets in our solar system hold mineral wealth, and future exploration could uncover deposits of gold.

Q: What are the potential risks and rewards of finding gold from other sources?

If we were to mine all of Earth's buried gold and still require more, finding gold in the ocean or on other planets could provide a solution. However, the costs and complexity of extraction would need to be carefully evaluated. Additionally, the possibility of a nearby supernova explosion showering Earth with gold treasure raises the potential for devastating consequences, such as the eradication of all life on the planet.

Q: What is the feasibility of extracting gold from the ocean?

The recovery of gold from the ocean is currently prohibitively expensive due to the extremely low concentrations of dissolved gold. While there is a significant amount of gold in the ocean, the cost of extraction is far greater than the value of the recovered gold at this time.

Q: How do we currently extract gold on Earth?

Gold is primarily extracted through mining processes. These involve locating gold deposits, either through geological surveys or exploration, and then extracting the ore from the ground. The ore is subsequently processed to separate the gold from other minerals and compounds.

Q: What are the potential future methods for extracting gold?

As technology advances, new methods for extracting gold may be developed. These could include innovative mining techniques, more efficient processing methods, or even futuristic approaches such as mining asteroids or other celestial bodies. However, these methods would require significant advancements and investments to become viable options.

Takeaways

Gold originates from supernovae explosions in space, where heavy elements are formed through nuclear fusion. The rarity of gold on Earth, coupled with the limitations of artificial production, makes it a valuable and sought-after commodity. While the ocean and other planets in our solar system may contain gold, the challenges and costs of extraction currently outweigh the benefits. However, future advancements in technology and exploration could potentially change this situation.

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