How Do We Know?

A friend posed an interesting question the other day: How does gold happen?

I, intrigued by science and geology but wholly ignorant of many finer truths therein, only scratched my sunburnt noggin. I quickly recalled some vaguely related points I do know: gold is an element, it’s mined from the earth, chubby dudes in New Jersey wear a lot of it.

I get supernova nucleosynthesis, but how does the product thereof get so darn shiny?

These thoughts provoked derivative questions. What exactly is an element? How the hell do people mine for anything? And why would any man wear a gold chain or live in New Jersey?

Full disclosure: I wore a gold Yankees emblem around my neck on a thin gold chain in high school, until my college dormmates rightly pointed out my douchebaggery. Why a young man in Ohio wore a Yankees emblem of any element is complicated, embarrassing, and fodder for a future dispatch.

While my pal, an engineer, verbally postulated about supernovas and the forces within the earth’s core, I silently wondered why the hell no one had yet looked this up via Wikipedia. Despite our location near a remote lake, I spotted no fewer than seven internet-enabled devices within eyeshot. No need for any of us to be smart when our glossy devices are.

I quietly scrolled, learning that it was some sort of supernova event that created gold and a bunch of wayward asteroids helped deposit it in the earth. Just as if my pal had told me this, I called bullshit, set my iPad down, and picked up my girlfriend’s Glamour.

How could anyone know that? It’s a grand theory, plausible indeed, but even an intellectually curious fellow like myself can only ponder deep mysteries for so long without suffering head explosions. I for one would prefer to noodle on the origin of ice cream or the likelihood that the muffin-top diet will help Jessica Simpson keep the weight off. I’m rooting for you, sister!

I read that it would take the average reader about 20 years (and counting) to read Wikipedia. Really? I know how you calculated that, and I don’t care.

As an investment-type guy, I’m more interested in the value of gold, and information. My smart device told me gold goes for $1,563 per Troy ounce, because people like shiny things, especially old hairy guys in New Jersey. Wikipedia says a try ounce is named for the British imperial troy ounce, established as a standard for coinage by an Act of Congress in 1828. It might have come from ancient Rome originally, or someone might have made that up in the 18th century. Seriously.

Do college students even do works cited at the end of papers anymore? Or do professors just assume everything they know came from Wikipedia?

A growing number of Americans think Internet access should be free, a public service (which of course isn’t really free). For a hunk of useless elemental rock, Joe Six Pack is willing to shell out over a grand. For the collected wisdom of several millennia, both trivial and weighty, nothing.

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