Pasadena, CA--Could the age of alchemy finally be at hand? Now that scientists can mimic conditions deep inside the earth that produce diamonds and other precious gems, will they soon be able to also produce gold, silver, and platinum in a laboratory? Imagine the Big Bang Theory episode that could be!
Last August, observers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO for short), the largest gravitational wave observatory and cutting edge physics experiment at Caltech, along with observers at Virgo in Italy, picked up a signal of two neutron stars slamming into one another in near-outer space (only 130 million light years away, as opposed to billions of light years away). Neutron stars are essentially the tiny corpses of much larger stars after a supernova explosion. But the point is that when these neutron stars collide, the debris they eject is filled with heavy elements like gold, silver, and platinum.
For now, it’s highly unlikely that mere mortals—even Sheldon Cooper—will be able to recreate a neutron star collision in a laboratory. But don’t forget that just a mere 70 years ago, that’s what we thought about diamonds. And in 1961, the writers of The Twilight Zone already forsaw a time when manufacturing gold is commonplace (The Rip Van Winkle Caper, Season 2, Episode 24). Watch a clip here:
Top image (Wikipedia): A neutron star.