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Solving the mystery of gold's origins

Gold…the stuff of pirate treasures, fairy tales, wedding rings. Also the focus of alchemy, the medieval forerunner of chemistry, in its quest to transform matter. But, even in modern times, gold's origins have been surrounded by mystery.

How is gold made? How did gold get on earth? And, why is gold rarer than so many other metals? These all seem like questions we should have answered long ago.

But, it took a young scientist from Iowa to settle the long-standing question about the origin of gold and other heavy elements in the universe.

In this episode, host Ben Kieffer talks with theoretical astrophysicist Brian Metzger. He grew up along the Mississippi River in Burlington, studied math and physics at the University of Iowa and went on to receive his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkley. He was awarded a NASA Einstein Fellowship and did his post-doctoral work at Princeton. Metzger is currently a professor of physics at Columbia University and senior research scientist at the Flat Iron Institute. In 2020, he received the prestigious Blavatnik Award for his research into the origins of gold in the universe.


  • Brian Metzger, professor of physics at Columbia University, senior research scientist at the Flat Iron Institute and Blavatnik Award-winner
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Rick Brewer was a producer for IPR's Talk of Iowa and River to River
Katherine Perkins is IPR's Program Director for News and Talk