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Content Guidelinesplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigContent guidelines

Ideas for new topics are always welcomed, from experts and non-experts alike - if you're not sure if they'll be accepted by other editors, put them in the 'Proposed content' section for approval. The easiest way to create a new page is to use the

Registrationplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigRegistration

At present, only registered users can create and edit articles. The registration process is very straightforward. Just click the 'Register' link at the top right of any page.

After you've registered, you'll be able to login with your password at any time…

How to edit pagesplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigEditing pages

Once you're logged in, a grey floating 'Tool' menu at the right hand side of the screen enables access to all the main 'Content Pages' for editing. (Note: Some pages, such as the site info etc. are locked)

Like most Wikis, the site doesn't use

Importance Ratingsplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigImportance ratings

In a departure from the usual Wiki format, Wikenigma assigns 'Importance Ratings' to some pages.

The idea is to separate articles which are considered (by the editors) to cover exceptionally important unknown issues from those which (although also u…

Faqplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigFrequently Asked Questions

Q. Why the weird syntax? A. Like most Wikis, the site doesn't use HTML for formatting (security reasons etc). A guide to the special syntax can be found here. Unfortunately it can be quite confusing at first - but there's now a new 'Visual …

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[ newest at the top ]

• Oct 2020 : A milestone of 500 unknown articles has been reached.

• Aug 2020 : Currently (beta) testing the new 'WYSIWYG' (What You See Is What You Get) page editor. It greatly simplifies the editing process, avoiding the need to learn th…

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Content in general

Please note that in common with other publicly editable wikis, this website is not responsible for content posted by the public. Nevertheless, the ongoing editing process should be able to remove unsuitable content in a reasonable time. If you…

541 unknowns listed

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Origin of the heavier elements

Since Big Bang Theoryplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigBig Bang theory

There is now a large body of evidence to support the Big Bang Theory for the origin of the universe, but the problem remains as to the origin of the material or energy which initialised it. As the UK’s Astronomer Royal Martin Rees has put it :

doesn't provide an explanation for the origin of the heavier elements which make up most of the Earth and the life on it - many cosmological theorists contend that they may have instead formed in supernovae explosions.

Exact mechanism(s) however, to explain the production of many of the elements heavier than iron (so called trans-ferric elements) have still not been agreed.

“It’s one of the classic unsolved problems of physics.” ( quote from New Scientist 4 Feb 2006 ) unable to find reference or link
“A fundamental challenge in Nuclear Astrophysics is the understanding of the formation of trans-ferric elements. The site for the production of many of the elements heavier than iron, including gold, platinum and uranium is still unknown.” source Prof. Sydney Gales at GANIL accelerator facility, France

The 'r-process'- the proposed mechanism by which rapid neutron capture occurs in collapsing supernovae to create about half of the heavy elements above iron - is 'still experiencing major problems' (as at 2011) see: What are the astrophysical sites for the rr-process and the production of heavy elements?

And a 2016 paper presented at The 13th International Symposium on Origin of Matter and Evolution of Galaxies underlined the uncertainties :

“Astrophysical site(s) of rapid neutron-capture process (r-process) is (are) not identified yet. Although core-collapse supernovae have been regarded as one of the possible candidates of the astrophysical site of r-process, nucleosynthesis studies suggest serious difficulties in core-collapse supernovae to produce heavy elements with mass number of ≳110.” [i.e Zircon]

Update 2017

If the following results are confirmed, the mystery of heavy element formation may have been solved.

New observations which link gamma-ray emissions to gravitational-wave events logged by LIGO (which has detected a merger of two Neutron stars) are said to show an electromagnetic 'signature' that is compatible with calculations about heavy element formation.

““People have long suspected that heavy elements were made in neutron star mergers, but this is really the first time we’ve nailed that down,” says Andrew Levan at the University of Warwick, UK. This merger made something like the mass of the Earth in gold, he says, along with other heavy elements such as platinum, lead and uranium.”

See: New Scientist, Oct 2017

More coverage of the story here in the journal Nature

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