December 23, 2019 100

How astronomy makes neuroscience even cooler: brains, gold, and neutron stars | Michelle Thaller

How astronomy makes neuroscience even cooler: brains, gold, and neutron stars | Michelle Thaller

To me it’s amazing some of the things that
we actually do know. There’s plenty of things that are conjecture
or theories but there’s a lot of stuff that we have real observations and real knowledge
of. And amazingly, to me, one of the things is:
where did all the atoms in our body come from? And it is actually a real fact, not a theory,
that when you look back at how the universe looked about, say, 13 billion years ago, the
chemistry was very, very different. We can actually see so far away out into space
that the light we’re looking at took billions and billions of years to get to us even at
the speed of light. And the farthest away we can see is to a time
that was about 400,000 years after the Big Bang. That’s pretty impressive. That’s about 13.5 billion years ago. And when you look back that far the only thing
you see is very hot hydrogen gas, a little bit of helium, a tiny bit of lithium, but
that’s it. That’s not a theory. That’s actually an observation. And as you look at galaxies very far away
in space and therefore very far back in time, you can actually watch the chemistry change. You watch different atoms get built up. And the only thing in the universe that we
know that can make a large atom—by large I mean something like oxygen or carbon or
calcium or anything that makes up our bodies—is actually the very core of a star. That’s where nuclear fusion reactions ram
hydrogen together. The hydrogen was formed during the Big Bang. You take these hydrogen atoms, you smash them
together and you build larger and large atoms until you build something like the carbon
that makes up most of my body. And so we’ve known for a while that the
only way you get these large atoms is stars. But even with something as powerful as the
core of a star there were some atoms that were a little bit more slippery; we couldn’t
quite figure out how you get the energy needed to make something really big like a gold atom. That should take even higher temperatures,
even more energy than what you typically find in the core of a massive star. So what is even more violent than an exploding
mass of star, which makes a lot of heavy elements of the universe? One of the things we discovered recently is
that two dead cores of stars called neutron stars can actually spiral together and collide. And when they collide instead of a normal
death of an exploding star you basically have something like that on steroids. You have an explosion that’s so big and
so violent people have really seen nothing like it since the Big Bang. Sometimes they call this a hyper nova, sometimes
they call it gamma ray burst because of the burst of high energy radiation that comes
out. But wonderfully we’ve been observing more
and more of these colliding neutron stars and they are just pumping out gold atoms,
platinum atoms and, interestingly enough, bismuth—but these very, very large, difficult-to-form
atoms. And there’s so much gold created in one
of these explosions that if you just look at the rate, you know, how many of these explosions
do we observe—amazingly we observe about one a day—and how much gold is created in
one of those? And you can actually account for the entire
abundance of gold in the universe just from that one thing, those colliding neutron stars. So the gold you have, I mean yes, you have
gold in your jewelry. That’s really cool. I’ve got a gold ring. But interestingly enough our neurons don’t
work without a tiny, little bit of gold to help our brain actually charge the neurons
in our brain. We need a little bit of gold and a little
bit of copper. So your brain wouldn’t work without a little
bit of gold, a couple of gold atoms in the neurons. So the reason we’re here thinking and moving
and actually existing the way we do is intimately connected to these colliding dead stars, these
colliding neutron stars that most likely created all of the gold in this room.

100 Replies to “How astronomy makes neuroscience even cooler: brains, gold, and neutron stars | Michelle Thaller”

  • Charles Brightman says:

    Chemical element #120 (8s2) is inside the center of stars.

  • Charles Brightman says:

    The 'GEM' pulsating, swirling photon is the energy unit of this universe that makes up everything in existence in this universe.

    Revised TOE: 3/25/2017.
    My Current TOE:

    1. Modern science currently recognizes four forces of nature: The strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, gravity, and electromagnetism.
    2. In school we are taught that with magnetism, opposite polarities attract and like polarities repel. But inside the arc of a large horseshoe magnet it's the other way around, like polarities attract and opposite polarities repel. (I have proved this to myself with magnets and anybody with a large horseshoe magnet and two smaller bar magnets can easily prove this to yourself too).
    3. Charged particles have an associated magnetic field with them.
    4. Protons and electrons are charged particles and have their associated magnetic fields with them.
    5. Photons also have both an electric and a magnetic component to them.

    6. When an electron is in close proximity to the nucleus, it would basically generate a 360 degree spherical magnetic field.
    7. Like charged protons would stick together inside of this magnetic field, while simultaneously repelling opposite charged electrons inside this magnetic field, while simultaneously attracting the opposite charged electrons across the inner portion of the electron's moving magnetic field.
    8. There are probably no such thing as "gluons" in actual reality.
    9. The strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force are probably derivatives of the electro-magnetic field interactions between electrons and protons.
    10. The nucleus is probably an electro-magnetic field boundary.
    11. Quarks also supposedly have a charge to them and then would also most likely have electro-magnetic fields associated with them, possibly a different arrangement for each of the six different type of quarks.
    12. The interactions between the quarks EM forces are how and why protons and neutrons formulate as well as how and why protons and neutrons stay inside of the nucleus and do not just pass through as neutrinos do.

    13. Personally, I currently believe that the directional force in photons is "gravity". It's the force that makes the sine wave of EM energy go from a wide (maximum extension) to a point (minimum extension) of a moving photon. When the EM gets to maximum extension, "gravity" flips and EM goes to minimum, then "gravity" flips and goes back to maximum, etc, etc. A stationary photon would pulse from it's maximum extension to a point possibly even too small to detect, then back to maximum, etc, etc.
    14. I also believe that a pulsating singularity (which is basically a pulsating photon) is the energy unit in this universe.
    15. When these pulsating energy units interact with other energy units, they tangle together. Various shapes (strings, spheres, whatever) might be formed, which then create sub-atomic material, atoms, molecules, and everything in existence in this universe.
    16. When the energy units unite together they would tend to stabilize and vibrate.
    17. I believe there is probably a Photonic Theory Of The Atomic Structure.
    18. Everything is basically "light" (photons) in a universe entirely filled with "light" (photons).

    19. When the electron with it's associated magnetic field goes around the proton with it's associated magnetic field, internal and external energy oscillations are set up.
    20. When more than one atom is involved, and these energy frequencies align, they add together, specifically the magnetic field frequency.
    21. I currently believe that this is where a line of flux originates from, aligned magnetic field frequencies.

    22. The Earth can be looked at as being a massive singular interacting photon with it's magnetic field, electrical surface field, and gravity, all three photonic forces all being 90 degrees from each other.
    23. The flat spiral galaxy can be looked at as being a massive singular interacting photon with it's magnetic fields on each side of the plane of matter, the electrical field along the plane of matter, and gravity being directed towards the galactic center's black hole where the gravitational forces would meet, all three photonic forces all being 90 degrees from each other.
    24. As below in the singularity, as above in the galaxy and probably universe as well.
    25. I believe there are only two forces of nature, Gravity and EM, (GEM). Due to the stability of the GEM with the energy unit, this is also why the forces of nature haven't evolved by now. Of which with the current theory of understanding, how come the forces of nature haven't evolved by now since the original conditions acting upon the singularity aren't acting upon them like they originally were, billions of years have supposedly elapsed, in a universe that continues to expand and cool, with energy that could not be created nor destroyed would be getting less and less dense? My theory would seem to make more sense if in fact it is really true. I really wonder if it is in fact really true.
    26. And the universe would be expanding due to these pulsating and interacting energy units and would also allow galaxies to collide, of which, how could galaxies ever collide if they are all speeding away from each other like is currently taught?

    27. As I as well as all of humanity truly do not know what we do not know, the above certainly could be wrong. It would have to be proved or disproved to know for more certainty.

  • J K says:

    How does gold or cooper help our brain???

  • Der Radfahrer says: The End of the Rainbow

  • Erik Beyer Paulsen says:

    I really dislike her use of the term 'theory'. She uses it in contexts where hypotheses would be more appropriate

  • Miles Kavachi says:

    Astrology > Astronomy

  • captindo says:

    So if not for the most extreme destruction, our type of life would not exist……I'm going to ponder that for the afternoon.

  • Rodrigo Aronson says:

    But how does it get to the neurons? Are we born with it? Do we ingest some trace amount of it with our food during our lifetime?

  • Brooklyn Style ☑️ says:

    Some of it wax pumped into our water source by DuPont

  • David Knight says:

    Keep posting the science stuff!

  • Bruno Ferreira says:

    That's fascinating to think about. It reminds me of something Neil Degrasse Tyson once said, "The cosmos is also within us, we're made of star stuff," or that might've been Carl Sagan. Regardless, astronomy is a fantastical topic of study.

  • dragon8me2 says:

    Does this mean that donald trump lacks a golden brain? (joke)

  • Cool H says:

    Can you tell me,which neutron star's death created that gold… Where this neutron star located? I mean how many light years?


    Very nice

  • logicalempiricist2 says:

    Could not a supernova also create gold and all the higher natural elements up to uranium?
    Is she referring to the fraction of gold in the Earth crust as being unnaturally high and therefore caused by colliding neutron stars, or is the neutron star theory the new theory to explain the origin of gold atoms per se?

  • Cool H says:

    Up to which extent a supernova produces elements, up to which number of element a supernova can produce? What about red giant explosion? And quasars?

  • Javs Rincon says:

    Start dust.. this is fascinating

  • Farajaraf says:

    Maybe that's why we love gold.

  • Alex Senko says:

    It the big bang was that powerful why didn't it also create larger elements, but instead mostly hydrogen? Just wondering..

  • pavokala says:

    Going beyond fact will not make it fact, it will still remain a theory… Just like Darwinism

  • StaticDreamsEntert says:

    I'm broke right now, make a tutorial on how to extract it.

  • Iasso says:

    You have zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium, iron, and a bunch of other measurable quantities of metals in your body and bloodstream.. heck, your blood couldn't be red without the iron.. and it's red for the same reason Mars is red.. (oxygen / iron interaction).. so why is anyone surprised that they're made of the same stuff as stars, or that there is also gold in themselves?

  • Any One says:

    Great! So it turns out that Joni Mitchell was really onto something in her song 'Woodstock' with the phrase 'we are golden'.

  • Sena says:

    Thats why astronomy is the best science field

  • Ronnypetson Souza da Silva says:


  • Antonio Robinson says:

    There are some profound implications from this when you consider that ORMUS (or mono-atomic gold) has been utilized for spiritual and neurological enhancement for literally thousands of years.

  • Antonio Robinson says:

    Makes sense considering that gold is a superconductor and is resistant to oxidizing.

  • Coconut Leaf Spine says:

    wow im a golden star

  • Migg says:

    Neil DeGrasse Tyson has always said that we are children of the stars.

  • Mister Nobody says:

    Y'all always act like you have me right exactly where I need to be- has it ever occurred to y'all that's what I want you all to think?

  • Curious World says:

    'We are stardust, we are golden'.

  • Mikrofonlar Kralarına Cevaplar says:

    Ob-serve, ab-serve.. electrons.. in some light speed.. photons.. in some light speed.. positrons in some light speed.. neutrons.. in some light speed.. all in a varieties of some other speed than another.. all gather in an element.. still in light speed plus spinning..and spiring.. lightening they they are all around particularly at their particular terms aswhich they are particles of the atom they belong to.. sure serve us obesseie.. that's observation!
    Reservation to deserve what? Only your own obserevatory abusing others for your so called intel fancy? You are just a dialectual not an intellectual! Your attempt to have been as if an interlectual is no progeny due to your dialectualism chosen in spite of the nature of intellectualism.
    Both you and the subject and plus the video cinsidered.. did you like the story? If yes, not off to bed will you but only back to school should you! Who was your baby sitter?

  • John Smith says:

    I need more information on this gold claim. This sounds awesome.

  • 96U LT says:

    i want more Michelle Thaller on big think videos!!

  • Pedro Heck says:

    "It's a fact, not a theory". Again the problem with the term "theory". Despite common sense, a theory is a solidified idea, just like the Theory of Gravitation or Theory of Evolution. In other words, in scientific terms a theory is indeed a fact.
    It kinda hurts the ear hearing this "it's not a fact, it's a theory" from [besides a lot of people here in the comments section] a channel that tries to approach things with a scientific view (apparently not always)…

  • True Tech says:


  • Ben Chau says:

    I hate how she says theory like a theory is untrue, does she believe that evolution maybe be untrue? Or germs?

  • Dejoblue says:

    WHOA! That totally gilded my mind!

  • Google User says:

    Well said and un-delusion unlike Michio Kaku the theoretical schizophrenic.

  • Joseph Sedita says:

    But can I paint his hoo-hoo gold? It's kind of my thing.

  • Stephen Furr says:

    Michelle Thaller is wonderful. I love her work. Thanks Big Think!

  • ๖ۣۜ♥๖̶tacokitten๖̶ says:

    Subliminal anarcho-capitalist flag, I see what you're doing there, Koch Brothers, and I absoLUTELY LOVE it!! <3 XoXoxO your BIGGEST fan, ๖ۣۜ♥๖̶tacokitten๖̶ 😘Taxation is theft, signing out! ✌☮

  • The Brain Feed says:

    Good video…
    By the way I too have a educational YouTube channel…
    Maybe you can have a look…
    Thank you…

  • Moamin Aljaro says:

    I feel ignorant now, thank you.

  • Just A Guy Production says:

    How can I extract it and sell it? I need candy/crack.

  • QBlackDeathQ says:

    Smart people are so purdy 🙂

  • Brandon Miller says:

    Repent of sin and believe in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who created the world and who loved you and died on the cross so that you can be saved from the wrath of God. <3

  • Jesse Gilbride says:

    Sagan said it best, we are star-stuff.

  • LagiNaLangAko23 says:

    I'm golden!

  • Mama Bear Lioness says:

    No FU$KING [email protected] Sherlocks!
    EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED! Stars, moons, mountains and oceans!
    Again, DUH

  • Mama Bear Lioness says:

    Again…DUH we ALL came from the STARS and the whole meaning of our existence has been to survive and thrive long enough to return "home". We all have this "homing" desire…deep within our "souls" or "consciencness" according to the "scientific" definition.
    Consciencness? And how did we come to possess it…these are the questions from "our there amongst the stars"'

  • MrRoboskippy says:

    I thought everything came from a magical sky wizard.

  • lee genny says:

    and who have put that gold in my mind in first place??

  • Noah Nobody says:

    Holy shit

  • S P I C Y Π O T A T O says:

    i love her enthusiasm

  • MrJamesdryable says:


  • crabsta says:

    18 Creationists diagree

  • Peter P-a-n says:

    "That's not a theory" doesn't make sense and is grist to the mill of religtards and other irrational people who think a theory is just a conjecture or something. Facts don't exist independent of theories.Theories are the way we make sense of our sensory input. Theory is as good as it can get. It accounts for all observations. Religions and other quack doesn't even come close to being theories they explain nothing but appeal to bigger mysteries.

  • UFOhunter says:

    You assume too much to be fact. For one thing, you assume speed of light can not change. You assume that because you can not see past B13.8 years, there is nothing beyond that! Just a few examples.
    There could be infinite universes inside a multiverse.The whole thing can be nothing but a computer simulation used by these crazy Gods, seeking more knowledge than they already have.

  • Awkward Segway says:

    Is the ancap flag in the thumbnail intentional?

  • Ritwik Saha says:

    Doesn't make sense with the title

  • Semidán Robaina says:

    Never heard of any protein or physiological process requiring gold atoms to function. Please provide link to original scientific evidence supporting this claim.

  • Alexandria School of Science says:

    what has gold got to do with neurons?

  • Paul Kennedy says:

    Evidently Big Think has turned ancap.

  • Tevo Saks says:

    I disagree. These were propability facts.

  • Dog文凯High says:

    Step 1. Find Neutron Star
    Step 2. ????
    Step 3. Profit

  • CIRUS MEDIA says:

    @2:28 …she speaks as if anyone on earth has EVER seen or observed a big bang! …the big bang theory is NO FACT!!! ..she is obviously ignorant in her little science education!

  • Zhan Zhara says:

    Great one!!

  • helios says:

    So, they didn't stole Einstein's brain for scientific research.

  • Jordan Phillips says:

    I still haven’t found a single reference in my research that says gold is necessary for neuronal function nor has anyone been able to provide me a link that supports the claim. Please stop spreading misinformation Big Think. It seems this channel was become a culmination of pseudoscientific garbage.

  • Chris A says:

    Let’s start resolving a known problem.

  • Keymo Embryo says:

    Michelle Thaller, will you marry me? <3

  • kaede19xx says:

    I haven't found a single paper or any scientific data that support your claim (gold in neurons, essentials for electric charge) please elaborate your claim. thank you

  • Alexr1239 says:

    Is that the anarcho-capitalist flag? lol

  • Casey Lee says:

    I wish she wouldn't have used the word "theory" like that.. people confuse scientific theories, with a theory as in an idea or hypothesis.

  • Pan Raphael says:

    That is soooooo cool. I never thought about these things in tandem. Oh hell yes, this talk is too short.

  • ロブ says:

    So in the end we ARE stardust….
    Great video btw!

  • Jules C says:

    She’s the worst, this is a great example of how poorly we are communicating science, the universe, math, etc to the public. Please go find another job you’re terrible and an embarrassment to the fraggle rock you were spawned from. Don’t believe me, show this video to 20 people on the street and see what they say to you at the end of the video. Maybe she’s got a little bit more gold in her brain than most, please find another job in anything else.

  • zaimah Begum-Diamond says:

    I knew I was a gold 🌟🤗😂

  • mickshaw555 says:

    But why does wearing excess gold make you dumb, bro?

  • GorillaGuerilla says:

    "Forget about Jesus, stars died so you can be here today"……

  • Khalid Alshehri says:

    A woman that has something to say that actually is worth listening to ? Scary times !

  • utUBEr00001 says:

    This channel is duuuuuuumb

  • Taneleer Tivan says:

    minds have just been blown

    let the mining commence

  • Lucas A says:

    that is so cool!!

  • Zlatko Preskakulev says:

    Yes! Pure gold ,menas good man and character of people loving each other by that! I believe and have feeling it is so good news!!

  • jacob b says:

    "real fact" "13 billion years ago" XD

  • Ron Villejo says:

    How cool to know indeed that the gold on earth came from spectacular collisions of neutron stars and that our brain relies on a bit of gold in order to function!

  • sweiland75 says:

    You don't need a gold star. You are a gold star.

  • John B says:

    So now Cash 4 Gold is going to be harassing me for any dead neutron stars I might own.

  • sevenfourtyseven says:

    They are discovering the truth

  • Cool H says:

    Some neutron stars collided. And they flew out gold, platinum, uranium…. That cloud created solar system, earth

  • Clint Wolf says:

    Unbelievable. Very interesting video. Thanks.

  • Rick Harold says:

    Love it !

  • Melanatedone says:

    Want to know whats more violent than the exploding mass of a star,?… calling a theory a fact and then attempting to convince me that said theory is a "real fact"… as oppose to what? Fictitious fact?

    "How the universe looked 13 billion years ago" 🤣 – Now THAT'S Real Facts for ya!

  • Jim Miranda says:

    At 1:00 she says "that's not a theory, that's an observation"
    Definition of Theory "a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained"
    Example: "Darwin's theory of evolution"

    "A scientific theory is an explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can be repeatedly tested and verified in accordance with the scientific method, using accepted protocols of observation, measurement, and evaluation of results. Where possible, theories are tested under controlled conditions in an experiment" Can someone explain why there is a difference?

  • Sir Benjamin Allen says:

    BigThink really should disable comments.

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