Sudbury, the nickel capital of the world, is a city deeply connected to the cosmos. Over 1.8 billion years ago an enormous impact set in motion a series of events, the end result of which involves a mysterious 'dark' experiment deep underground.
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We can't thank SNOLAB, the Creighton Mine, and Blaire (our incredible guide) enough for the once-in-a-lifetime adventure that was touring and filming in SNOLAB. We will never forget it for the rest of our lives. We hope we could do some semblance of justice (with our independent, low-budget filmmaking pedigree) to what we consider the brightest beacon of Canada's scientific community. If you come away from this episode with something, we hope it's interest in what's going on at SNOLAB, because it is wild.
We've stepped out of our comfort zone a little on this one, so there are many important addendums to this episode. Chances are, if you've flagged something from the episode, we've discussed it here.
We barely touched on what dark matter is, so if you're scratching your head, please watch this awesome video by Kurzgesagt: https://goo.gl/aPkxQD
Red flag: when we say dark matter makes up 85% of the "stuff" in the universe, we mean matter—85% of matter is dark matter. Universally-speaking, the universe is made up of approximately 70% dark energy, 25% dark matter, and 5% regular matter. We apologize for wording it in such a confusing and vague way—just remember we are focusing on the physical "stuff" that makes up 30% of the universe and aren't including (dark) energy.
Now for the comet. If you are interested in astronomy you probably already know this, but there's a debate as to what exactly impacted with the Earth 1.8 billion years ago: a comet or an asteroid. In both cases, once the cosmic entity hit the Earth, it immediately became a "meteorite" by definition. The reason we stick with comet is because in the past ten years it has become the most popularly-accepted theory, making the rounds from scientific journals to press releases. Here are some of our sources:
The Scientific Journal, Terra Nova, included a 2014 study that came to the conclusion it was a comet: https://goo.gl/CNJbTM
The Scientific American popularized the notion: https://goo.gl/KXKNFL
The study itself produced follow-ups, including a study focused on the ramifications of the comet's impact, published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta: https://goo.gl/gfXaFf
Basically, things that happened 1.8 billion years ago are never set-in-stone—a comet vapourizing to produce a meteorite strike just seems like the most plausible explanation for the Sudbury Basin at the moment.
In a similar vein, our depiction of the Earth's surface 1.8 billion years ago is based entirely on contemporary theoretical models, and is most likely inaccurate. Essentially there was a supercontinent, Nena, and a couple other subcontinents, Ur and Atlantica. At some point (around 1.5 billion years ago) they, as well as other landmasses, amalgamated to form the supercontinent Nuna. The timeline of all of this, the exact geography, and orientation, is all theoretical, so we tried our best to emulate what we saw in our research. Here is a theoretical computer model on the timeline we cover: https://goo.gl/HCHfGB
There's another area where, for the purposes of telling the story in a short video, lines had to be blurred: the uses of nickel. Nothing is ever built entirely out of nickel, not even five cent coins. When we refer to artillery and inventions and car batteries, nickel is a major component of the objects. Usually it's use is centred around being an alloy, used in conjunction with iron to produce steel. That doesn't mean it was any less important—without the nickel from Sudbury most of the things we brought up wouldn't exist or wouldn't have been made in such high volumes. Nickel from Sudbury was, and continues to be, a major commodity in the world's markets. As a sidenote, copper was/is also plentiful in Sudbury, but the amount of nickel dwarfs it.
Sudbury is no longer the wasteland it once was. We don't touch on it enough in the episode (low/nonexistent budgets don't allow for months and months of prep for episodes) but we will in social media posts and follow-ups. Sudbury has actually become a beacon of environmental revitalization and we were stunned by it when we filmed there.
Go to the Laughing Buddha restaurant if you visit Sudbury. What would an episode about Sudbury be if we didn't include Stompin' Tom (the Inco line? They used to own the Superstack and smelter): https://goo.gl/3Nhp2F