Gold from Starstuff, or a Fool’s Gold Scenario?
If you tweak your scenario hard enough, it will give you anything you want.
Did earth’s gold and heavy elements arrive by special delivery? Maybe an exploding star did it. The words maybe, might, and possibly give scientists endless opportunities to speculate.
Whirling ‘Collapsar’ Stars Gave Universe Its Gold (Space.com). It’s not like astrophysicists had this figured out. We’ve been told for decades that all the elements heavier than iron were formed in supernovas. Was that all fake confidence?
“It’s fascinating to me that, even this year, in which we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the periodic table, there is still so much we don’t quite understand about how the heavy elements of the universe are created,” study lead author Daniel Siegel, a theoretical physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, told Space.com. Those elements include “gold and platinum and the rare-earth elements in our portable electronics,” he said.
Now that they have a new scenario with merging neutron stars (rare events called “collapsars”), we can trust them, right? Or is this job security for storytellers?
“What we find in our study is that collapsars should produce at least 80% of the heavy-element content in our galaxy,” Siegel said. “Almost 20% would come from neutron-star mergers.”
In the future, the researchers want to investigate how elements are created in other kinds of accretion disks, such as supernovas resulting from strongly magnetized stars, Siegel said. “We also want to explore the cosmological implications of our work — what our results suggest for the chemical evolution and assembly of galaxies,” he added.
Collapsars as a major source of r-process elements (Nature). Here’s the paper on which the previous claim was based. Siegel, Barnes and Metzger share some awe-inspiring math and nuclear physics. Note: the “r-process” is a term in nuclear physics for neutron capture to build up elements.
Here we report simulations that show that collapsar accretion disks yield sufficient r-process elements to explain observed abundances in the Universe. Although these supernovae are rarer than neutron-star mergers, the larger amount of material ejected per event compensates for the lower rate of occurrence. We calculate that collapsars may supply more than 80 per cent of the r-process content of the Universe.
It’s a pretty audacious claim. But notice that this scenario is an auxiliary hypothesis for the Big Bang, which itself could only result in hydrogen, helium, and some lithium. A look through the paper shows numerous examples of guesswork, uncertainty, assumption, estimating from poor data, and jury-rigging of the scenario prior to the confident conclusion. Given enough billions of years and enough tweaking, anything is possible. But look at some of the assumptions! Only one neutron-star merger has been observed; yet they use that single instance to deduce a “per-galaxy rate” of these events! The calculated rate of collapsars is equally crude. Assumptions and crude calculations cannot yield conclusions less crude than they are themselves.
Ancient Neutron-Star Crash Made Enough Gold and Uranium to Fill Earth’s Oceans (Space.com). “Enough gold, uranium and other heavy elements about equal in mass to all of Earth’s oceans likely came to the solar system from the collision of two neutron stars billions of years ago, a new study finds,” begins this scenario. Of course, they had to jury-rig where this collision occurred, and when it occurred, and how lucky we were that it didn’t sterilize the Earth.
The researchers found a vast amount of heavy elements in the solar system likely originated from a single neutron-star collision that occurred about 80 million years before the birth of the solar system. Based on the amount of material from this merger that managed to make it here, they suggested this merger happened about 1,000 light-years from the cloud of gas and dust that eventually formed the solar system.
They didn’t quite get around to addressing some troubling follow-up questions. (1) Why isn’t gold found equally on all the other objects of the solar system? (2) If Earth began as a molten mass, why didn’t all the heavy elements sink to the core? (3) Why is so much gold found at the Earth’s surface?
The attitude of secular scientists is, “It exists; therefore it evolved.” Take gold and platinum. Empirical observation reveals these and other rare earth elements (see Evolution News) and precious metals available at the surface of the Earth, but they are not equally distributed through the solar system. If such elements had been found at Mars or Venus or on comets and asteroids, NASA would be on a gold rush! How did Earth become so blessed with useful and valuable elements? Nobody watched a collapsar send the gold here. You can’t reproduce a collapsar in the lab, much less a lucky neutron-star merger. The only way materialists can conclude anything is to tell stories, and throw in a little bit of science to give it an air of plausibility. As in biology, the usual answer is, “It evolved” (synonymous with “stuff happens”).
A frequent Twitter critic of CEH falls back on one of his favorite excuses, ‘”At least scientists admit they don’t know everything and are trying to figure it out with the methods of science. Isn’t that better than trusting some holy book and saying ‘God did it’ by some kind of magic?” Let’s get this straight. Any sufficiently assumption-ridden, error-prone, unobservable, counter-intuitive, implausible, jury-rigged, theory-laden, anomaly-riddled materialistic just-so story is indistinguishable from Magic. The critic just has a personal preference for that kind of miracle over than intelligently-designed miracles. Divine action, however, has this going for it: necessary and sufficient causation. Plus, He told us what He did!
Atheists have the free will to disbelieve all this. Just don’t let them call it science.
Great Article. Thanks
In addition to all the improbable stellar events speculated to produce gold, why isn’t gold mixed evenly throughout Earth? Has no cosmologist ever talked to a geologist? Gold is found in veins, not dusted throughout all crustal rock.