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商业 - 科技

2亿年前的中子星碰撞产生了金和铂

Valentina Zarya 2017年10月26日

LIGO的科学家有了里程碑式的发现。

你很可能有一些黄金做的物品,例如结婚戒指、项链、或是高曾祖母传下来的纪念品。也许你甚至就带着它们。不过你可曾想过,黄金从哪里来?

几十年来,科学家都在思考这个问题——如今我们知道了一个有趣的答案:它来自2亿年前碰撞的两颗中子星。

这次碰撞产生的波动在空间中传播,于上周日早晨被激光干涉引力波天文台(Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, LIGO)所观测到。该科研机构的创始人在本月早些时候还获得了诺贝尔物理学家。这个组织宣布,碰撞事件解释了元素周期表中一些最重的元素的起源,其中包括金、铂和碘——碘是人类生命中的必需物质。

LIGO的成员、雪城大学(Syracuse University)物理学家、本次发现的核心人物邓肯·布朗表示,这一发现真正令人兴奋之处,在于提供了有关宇宙起源和物质结构的线索。他对《财富》(Fortune)表示:“这是人类知识上的重大进步。”

布朗相信,中子星碰撞可能还有助于解释现在主流的宇宙形成理论——通俗地说就是“大爆炸”理论:宇宙中的所有物质曾经都存在于一个密度无限大的奇点中,这个奇点在大约136亿年前爆炸,形成了我们现在所知的宇宙。

科学家试图进一步了解“大爆炸”的重要途径之一,就是观察其他天体的爆炸和碰撞。至今为止,LIGO只观察到了四次这样的碰撞(这会引发空间中的引力“波动”,从而会被我们探测到),这些碰撞都与黑洞有关。

不过,布朗解释道,黑洞的问题在于,它们是“黑”的,没有什么可以观测的信息。而科学家上周日早上观测到的爆炸,则是“一次相当壮观的展览”,让科学家了解到了重元素(包括金和铂)的形成,获得了许多素材,从而向终极目标——搞清我们如何来到现在——而迈进。(财富中文网)

 

译者:严匡正

Chances are you own something made of gold: a wedding band, a necklace, or a keepsake handed down from your great-great-grandmother. Maybe you’re even wearing it right now. But did you ever stop to think about where it came from?

Scientists have been pondering that question for decades—and now we know the fascinating answer: From the collision of two neutron stars 200 million years ago.

The collision sent a ripple through space that was observed early Sunday morning by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), the scientific collective whose founders won the Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month. The group announced that event has revealed the origin of some of the heaviest elements on the periodic table. Included in that list: gold, platinum, and iodine—which is essential for human life.

But the truly exciting thing about the discovery, explains Duncan Brown, a LIGO member and a Syracuse University physicist at the heart of this discovery, is that it provides clues about the origin of the universe and the structure of matter. “This is a major advancement in human knowledge,” he tells Fortune.

Brown believes the neutron star collision may also help shed light on the prevailing theory of the formation of the universe—colloquially known as the “Big Bang” theory: That all matter was once collected into a single incredibly dense point and that that point “exploded” about 13,600 million years ago, creating the universe as we know it.

One of the key ways in which scientists have been trying to learn more about the Big Bang is by observing other explosions and collisions of celestial objects. Until now, LIGO had observed only four such collisions (which cause gravitational “ripples” in space making them ripe for detection); all of them have involved black holes.

But the problem with black holes is that, well, they’re black—and don’t really leave much to observe, Brown explains. The collision that scientists observed Sunday morning, however, “created a pretty spectacular display,” giving scientists insight into the formation of those heavy elements (gold and platinum included) and plenty of fodder to keep working towards the ultimate goal: Figuring out how we all got here.

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