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Solving the mystery of gold's origins

River to River, hosted by Ben Kieffer

Gold … the stuff of pirate treasure, fairy tales and 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 of River to River, host Ben Kieffer revisits his conversation 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. In 2020, he received the prestigious Blavatnik Award for his research into the origins of gold in the universe.

Also this hour, a Des Moines Register columnist's conversation with Ben about her story on two Iowa police officers who were killed in ambushes in their police cars.

The first segment first aired on November 2, 2021. The second segment first aired on October 29, 2021.


  • Courtney Crowder, Iowa Columnist for the Des Moines Register
  • 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
Matthew was a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa