You Can Get a Free Year of Xbox Live Gold for Buying Office 360

Good news, Microsoft fans! For a limited time buying Microsoft products will get you more Microsoft products for free. To be more specific, you’ll get a yearlong subscription to Xbox Live Gold when you purchase the new(ish) Microsoft Office 365 which also happens to be a subscription based software suite. Advertised as a back-to-school deal, the offer is good from July 18 through September 28, and despite some initial concerns, it is available in the United States as well as 38 other countries.

So go wild—at the cost of free, Xbox Live Gold suddenly doesn’t look like such a ripoff after all.


True Gold taps new sources to raise capital

Mark O’Dea has to be the envy of every of nearly every junior mining CEO in the country.

As the executive chairman of True Gold Mining Inc., Mr. O’Dea has signed off on deals to raise $33.5-million of fresh capital since the start of May. That equates to more than half of True’s $60-million market value.

It is an enormous amount of money for a junior gold miner to raise at this point in time. Juniors are suffering through some of the worst market conditions seen in decades, as risk capital has fled the sector and equity financing opportunities have dried up due to lack of demand. The recent drop in gold prices only made matters worse.

Mr. O’Dea, a well-known mining entrepreneur, said he recognized the equity markets were a non-starter for raising capital. That caused him to take a different approach and look for strategic investors. His success demonstrates that money is available for quality junior companies, but they have to work a little harder for it than they used to.

“We’ve really tried to target a different style of niche investor, and different pools of capital from the traditional resource sector funds which have been really beat up,” the 45-year-old said in an interview.

Many juniors like to talk about how they are courting various “strategic” investors (particularly in Asia) but almost none are able to raise substantial amounts of money that way.

True Gold, however, was able to tap two different sources. Back in May, the Vancouver-based miner raised $10-million through a private placement with Canadian giant Teck Resources Ltd. And on Thursday, the company announced it is receiving a $23.5-million investment from Liberty Metals & Mining Holding LLC, a subsidiary of Liberty Mutual Insurance and a very long-term investor in the resource space.

True Gold was helped by the fact that Mr. O’Dea has a strong track record. He was the CEO of Fronteer Gold Inc., which made a discovery in Nevada and was sold to Newmont Mining Corp. for $2.3-billion in 2011. He also has a relationship with Teck that dates back to his days at Fronteer.

But on its own, that would probably not be enough to raise significant funds in this market.

Mr. O’Dea said the key was to match the project he wanted to build with the right kind of long-term investors. He said that Liberty was interested in True Gold’s Karma project in Burkina Faso because it has low capital intensity, with a construction cost of less than $150-million. That is a must in a market where capital is so scarce, and provides a useful lesson for juniors trying to tackle more ambitious projects.

“As the market began to turn, we recognized that projects with low capital costs, that can get into production relatively quickly, and can withstand downward pressure on the gold price are the projects you want to be in,” he said.


Colliding neutron stars revealed as source of all the gold in the universe

The late astronomer Carl Sagan once said we are all made of star stuff, which is both accurate and awesome. It turns out gold (and other very heavy elements) are made of neutron star stuff. Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have found that neutron star collisions are the most likely source of these elements in the universe.

Science now holds that all matter in the early universe was hydrogen, which is the fuel of stars. As the first balls of hydrogen condensed into the nuclear furnaces we know as stars, they began fusing hydrogen into helium. This is what young stars do to this day. As stars age, they begin fusing heavier elements as the supply of hydrogen runs out. A red giant can fuse elements up through carbon. For heavier elements, you need a big boom. A supernova will do nicely. When a star dies, it can create elements as large as iron. Now we know where the heavier ones come from. Here’s a little primer on the physics involved:

Scientists have long suspected that a very large explosion would be needed to fuse heavier elements like gold, platinum, uranium, and all the rest. The nature of that process was unclear until now. The Harvard-Smithsonian Center analysis shows colliding neutron stars have probably made all the elements in the universe heavier than iron.

A neutron star is formed when a star a few times larger than the sun runs out of fuel. It collapses in on itself, but isn’t massive enough to form a black hole. Many star systems are at least binary, so it’s possible there are plenty of opportunities for multiple neutron stars to be in close proximity to each other. The massive energy released by the collision fuses heavy elements and also creates a new black hole as the mass of the neutron stars is combined.

The next time you hear about the price of gold, just think for a second where it came from. Each neutron star collision produces many times more of the shiny metal than exists on Earth.