Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Catalytic converter theft, 'The Crime Wave We Can Blame on… Neutron Stars?'

PBS Digital's Be Smart has a uniquely geeky take on catalytic converter theft, calling it The Crime Wave We Can Blame on… Neutron Stars?

There’s a crime wave sweeping the world right now. A new kind of theft that takes just minutes to carry out. These criminals are on the hunt for something that fetches big bucks on the black market. Numbers are skyrocketing, and public officials are scrambling for answers. Turns out, we can blame it all on neutron stars and some oddities of the periodic table.

When it comes to neutron crime, it's hard to get a charge to stick… heh heh
This video combines several stories I tell my students: why catalytic converters are being stolen, why they are important, and what an element's periodic table location means. It also contains a story I haven't told since 2006, when I last taught astronomy, how the processes inside stars create elements. Joe Hanson's telling of that last tale included information about how elements form that I hadn't encountered before, that neutron star collisions also create heavy elements, not just the supernova explosions that produce neutron stars. As I've written before, it's a good day when I learn something new. I hope my readers think so, too.

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