Do We Owe Our Existence To Gravitational Waves?

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
February 7, 2024
Filed under , , , , , , , ,
Do We Owe Our Existence To Gravitational Waves?
A comparison of measured element abundances in the Earth’s crust (24) (dotted line) with r-process portion (solid line) calculated using the r-process fractions from (23). Elements for which the calculated r-process fractions exceed 75% are labelled. These include the elements bromine, iodine, thorium and uranium, whose relevance to life on Earth is discussed in the text. — astro-ph.HE

Two heavy elements essential to human biology are thought to have been produced by the astrophysical r-process, which occurs in neutron-rich environments: iodine is a constituent of thyroid hormones that affect many physiological processes including growth and development, body temperature and heart rate, and bromine is essential for tissue development and architecture.

Collisions of neutron stars (kilonovae) have been identified as sources of r-process elements including tellurium, which is adjacent to iodine in the periodic table, and lanthanides. Neutron-star collisions arise from energy loss due to gravitational-wave emission from binary systems, leading us to suggest that gravitational waves have played a key role in enabling human life by producing iodine and bromine.

We propose probing this proposal by searching in lunar material for live 129I deposited by a recent nearby kilonova explosion.

John Ellis, Brian D. Fields, Rebecca Surman

Comments: 3 pages, 1 figure. Comments welcome
Subjects: High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena (astro-ph.HE)
Cite as: arXiv:2402.03593 [astro-ph.HE] (or arXiv:2402.03593v1 [astro-ph.HE] for this version)
Submission history
From: Brian Fields
[v1] Tue, 6 Feb 2024 00:08:48 UTC (95 KB)


Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻