Fry, when you downloaded her without my permission, you stole my image, and in the end, that’s all I really have. That and the largest gold nugget in the world, one mile in diameter. – Futurama
Golden Heart . . . sounds like a Bond villian?
I apologize for missing posts last week – I was totes on vacation, however, I’ve got a zillion new posts that I’m working on that will (in a week or two) all fit together into the story of our trip. Here’s the first:
Gold is weird. Really weird.
Gold can only be explained through the use of the Theory of Relativity. Yup, it’s true. Most metals are silvery, since they consist of lots of free electrons flowing around metallic atomic nuclei. They shine and reflect all colors.
Due to the density of the gold nucleus, the closest electrons have to move at half the speed of light, increasing their mass by 20%. But electrons weigh less than a Toyota Prius in the car dealership that is an atom of gold, so they don’t add much to the weight. But the density pulls the out electrons slightly inward. This slight change causes gold to shift from absorbing ultraviolet light to absorbing blue light. This absorption of blue light leaves the relativistic reflection of the rest of the colors . . . that particular hue we call gold. A nice summary of gold color and relativity is here (LINK).
Even weirder is that there is considerable debate over how gold is even formed in our Universe. It used to be thought that gold was formed, like all elements heavier than hydrogen, in the core of a star and the splooshed out into the universe when the star (if it was big enough) exploded at the end of its useful life (hint: if we all did this Social Security might be more solvent, but no one would qualify because they’d have exploded). But after crunching the numbers, or shaking the voodoo stick at the physics god, or whatever, it became clear that exploding stars didn’t allow for very much (if any) gold creation. They needed another answer. That answer?
When a star explodes, if it’s the right size, it leaves a core of a neutron star behind. The material from a neutron star is so dense (not stupid, but really, really, heavy) that the normal atomic structure has collapsed and all of the atomic nuclei are stuck to each other like a swimming pool filled with hot dogs. No water. Just hot dogs. The resulting stuff that the star is made of is so dense that it doesn’t make sense to anyone, just like a swimming pool filled with hot dogs. A teaspoonful (of neutron star, not hot dogs) weighs a billion tons. I’ll just say it’s really, really heavy.
When two of these neutron stars (or maybe a neutron star and a black hole) merge, it’s thought that the mind-numbingly large amounts and density of energy might account for the majority of the formation of gold. A rather long (but well written, surprisingly since it’s from The Atlantic) article on that is here (LINK).
Gold also doesn’t have any stable isotopes (an isotope is when the number of neutrons in the nucleus varies from the “basic” atomic configuration). Hydrogen does, but, not gold.
Gold also never tarnishes. Silver tarnishes. Iron rusts. Gold stays as gold. Oxygen need not apply
Other weird gold facts:
- Half of all the gold ever mined came from one small area in South Africa (like sixty miles by forty miles).
- There’s enough gold at the Earth’s core to cover the planet in gold about 18 inches deep.
- The gold we have on the surface is thought to have come from meteors whomping the Earth. Otherwise it would have sunk to the core when the planet was molten.
- Eros, the asteroid, is thought to be about 3% metal, containing about 20 billion tons of gold.
- People like lists of things.
Mankind has obsessed over gold for millennia. King Tut’s tomb had over a ton and a half of gold in it. Most (85%?) of the gold ever mined is still in use in some place or another today. Your wedding ring might have been made from the gold mined in 4000 B.C.
This obsession has led to the most fantastic tales:
- Leprechauns – Always after me lucky charms, eh? Leprechauns are hard to spell, and also appear to have the upper hand in pots of gold. Apparently, finding a leprechaun is like getting married to Mel Gibson – catch one and you get a pot full of money.
- Cibola and El Dorado – In the Americas when the Spanish Conquistadores came to town, the natives quickly realized that they wanted gold. So a good idea? Send them to another town that was MADE of gold, and get ‘em out of your town. It seemed to work pretty well, and eliminated a LOT of stupid Spaniards from the Americas.
- Jason and the Golden Fleece – A really old story out of Greece, where Jason had to find a ram’s skin with hair made of gold. This may refer to the miners of the day using sheep fleece to catch small bits of gold that they mined and used water to separate. Or it might be a metaphor for health care funding.
- Dead Sea Scrolls – ~$1 billion in gold hidden in Israel with instructions that no one understands because they can’t translate the words describing where everything is hidden, and some of the words that can be read (“near the place where David and Jerry camped that one time”) aren’t all that helpful.
- Lost Inca Gold – When Pizarro decided to kidnap the Incan king, he set the ransom at a room full of gold. Apparently, he got bored and decided to just kill the king instead of waiting for the treasure to show up, liking murder more than a ROOM FULL OF GOLD. The Incans decided to not pay the ransom, and either put it in a cave, or dumped it in a lake. People regularly fail to return from the Amazon while still looking for this treasure.
- Annunaki. See below.
Okay, this one is my favorite:
The Annunaki are a race of aliens who came down to Earth from the planet Niburu, which is on a highly elliptical orbit, and crosses the Earth’s orbit every 3,600 years. The Annunaki genetically enhanced humanity so . . . (drumroll) that humans could dig for gold for the Annunaki. Thus, they created Adam and Eve for the purposes of mining, and engineered into their (our) minds a love of gold so intense that we’d collect gold for them while they were on the far part of their orbit.
Why did the Annunaki need the gold? So they could swim in it like a happy miser? No. Their planet, Niburu, need the gold to keep the planet warm as it zooms back out into space. It would almost seem easier to move to a planet (like Earth?) where they didn’t have to genetically enslave an entire species to get gold for them. Or mine an asteroid. But, no, just like a Bond villain, they had to do things the hard way. Here is a LINK to a site that has more information on this theory. And there are others.
This theory (in my opinion) is like the WWE of history. Great info, fun to watch, but don’t get it mixed up in any way with reality.
So, gold fascinates. And several times in my lifetime, it would have been an absolutely killer investment. However, I recently watched a video where Warren Buffett suggested that all of the gold available to us today would be able to be put into a cube 67 feet on each side. (There are some estimates that it’s a lot more than that, but let’s use Mr. Buffett’s numbers. He seems to understand numbers pretty well.)
Buffett noted: He could have that gold, valued at $7,000,000,000,000 (that’s seven TRILLION dollars) or he could buy ALL the farmland in the United States, plus seven or so Exxons. He made the point (quite well, I thought) that the gold was a static thing, but the farms produce things every year. Exxon produces wealth for society every year. He’d much rather have a productive asset rather than a commodity that just sat there in a giant, relativistic cube.
Me? I think either one of them sounds pretty good. That’s why we decided to go to gold country, and become prospectors (for a few days). More on that soon . . .