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Hank talks about a shiny element that has fascinated humans for millenia.

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So, we're humans, which means that sometimes we place enormous amounts of value on things for no particular reason, like the value that I place on corn dogs or Russian hip-hop polka or the girl who sat next to me in algebra class, with skin like alabaster and eyes that shone like crystalline bismuth. Ah.... Those things may be satisfying for a while, but they're not really worth all of the devotion that we -- I guess, I -- lavish upon them.

Gold, of course, is an ultimate example of this. An object of fascination for years, rocked hard by the likes of King Tut and Mr T, because, uh, it's shiny. As elements go, gold isn't without its charms; I mean, it is very resistant to tarnish -- it's very very shiny, and that's fairly unusual. It's also very easy to work with. It's a soft metal, and so it's easy to shape into jewellery. It's kind of, y'know... I can get why people are a little bit obsessed with gold.

And of course there's the fact that all of the gold on our planet -- and indeed, all of the gold in the universe, from the gilded treasures of the hermitage to the little flakes in Helen Hunt's belly button (I'm just assuming that there's some in there) -- was formed billions of years ago by the explosion of stars.

Stars, as you probably know, are enormous fusion-powered convection ovens that burn so hot at their cores that very large atoms can smash together and form even larger atoms. This process is called fusion, where two smaller atoms come together and produce a larger atom of a different, completely different, element.

The universe, when it first started out, was pretty much entirely composed of hydrogen, which came together into stars, and that hydrogen fused together to form helium, and the helium fused together to form larger and larger elements, until stars are producing full full 26-proton atoms of iron. And at that point, when the stars begin to produce iron, is when they start to sputter away and die. But then something pretty amazing starts to happen. It breaks through that threshold and starts to create all of the heavier, larger elements that we find on Earth, like copper and zinc and, yes, gold. These new elements are then flung throughout the universe by that supernova and join together into globs of matter that are forming new balls of stuff, which, uh, the Earth turns out to be one of. And eventually some of those little atoms of gold that were created in a star many light-years away end up in T-pain's grills.

But still, there isn't anything objectively different about gold. It's just like all of the other heavier elements like platinum and uranium and copper, and as for rarity, I mean, that's not that big of a deal either. If you're looking for something really rare, I suggest you check out astatine. You may have noticed Earth, pretty big planet, any given time there's about 30 grams of astatine on it. If you get any, I suggest you bring it to market fairly quickly, because in the next few minutes it's going to radioactively decay into something completely different. So happy hunting!

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