Zealand to New Zealand, Rutherford to protons

Zealand to New Zealand, Rutherford to protons 0

If there’s a New Zealand there’s got to be an old one. We keep a lot of old things around, even countries and cities. A little later in this post I’m going to talk about a New Zealander named Ernest Rutherford. He did an amazing experiment. His “microscope” was as phenomenal as the LHC….Large Hadron Collider. And to me my little light microscope is pretty amazing but worlds apart from subatomic particle microscopes.

Back to part of the post title, Zealand. This is where I started getting confused. But let me try to explain this. Zealand is the largest island in Denmark. It’s Danish. Not Dutch. If you are from the Netherlands, you’re referred to as Dutch (apparently Dutch people are really a native ethnic group from the Netherlands). Let’s not go any further because I’m sure I’ll probably say something that isn’t correct (right). But there are some very famous Dutch people…very famous….van Gogh is probably someone practically everyone knows about.

On to Ernest Rutherford who is neither Dutch nor Dane. He was born in New Zealand however (a Kiwi 🙂 ). And what his microscope did (in the UK) was find that the center of the atom (we call the nucleus) had a positive charge. If you remember anything about an atom, you probably remember that electrons carry a negative charge and the protons (in the nucleus) have a positive charge. It makes you wonder how over 100 years ago someone figured that out. To me it just doesn’t seem like someone without an iphone could possibly have figured that out. I know that sounded stupid but it’s just amazing what science has known for a long time. You know where we stand…on the shoulders…..

A tad bit more about his “microscope.” There is no way to see an atom with ordinary light. An atom is too small to see with visible wavelengths. He sent alpha particles (radium decayed positively charged helium particles that had no electrons) through a thin sheet of gold and measured what came out on the other side. He also measured what was reflected and didn’t go through. That was his microscope. He expected all the alpha particles would go through the other side but not all did. Some bounced back. Remember, positive repels positive. But there is a large empty space in an atom so most particles went through. And just remember, any ordinary light hitting a thin sheet of gold doesn’t go through the gold. It takes a way smaller particle to do that.

So, a patient I had some years ago had a tumor in his eye. I found it and took a picture of it. Showed it to the patient.  He ended up seeing a doctor somewhere in California for proton beam radiation treatment. Yep, thanks to all the scientific discoveries, protons were eventually harnessed for our benefit. And thanks to the Zealands, new and old. May they keep adding on to our rich wealth of history and discovery.

Here’s a fun website that compares the various sizes of things in our universe…big to small.


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Where is gold made?

Where is gold made? 1

When I found out how gold was made my eyes and brain freaked out. I never thought about it before. I never thought about Higgs Boson either and still don’t think about that….too much. But our elements….how were they made?

Gold is an element. It’s chemical symbol is Au and is derived from Latin. If you have any gold on you right now, you have something that was made billions of years ago…..before the earth was created! Yep, gold wasn’t made in a volcano and it doesn’t come from our sun. You have an element with 79 protons and 79 neutrons and the only energy that could bring all those particles together took place in a supernova and/or perhaps neutron star collisions. That is where gold is made. Freakin’ awesome!

Isn’t that amazing? Most of the gold in our earth is deep down in the earth’s core (because it’s so heavy it sank to the middle) so the gold that we have on top of the earth came from meteorites and asteroids. South Africa got lucky and was probably hit by an asteroid with a huge amount of gold in it. That’s another amazing thing. If we weren’t bombarded by those things we probably wouldn’t know about gold….and honestly, we wouldn’t exist. Period. Carl Sagan said it, “we are made of star dust.” I’ll let you take a moment and think about that.

Every single living thing on this earth is made of atoms that originated in either the big bang or from star explosions. I can’t add enough wows to this.

Now you know why there’s talk of mining meteors and asteroids (for rare and valuable elements). I’ll just leave it at that.


South Africa gold mine

South Africa gold mine


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