24THINGS NEVER KNEW ABOUT GOLD
GOLD! (CHANG!) Always believe in your soul! SosangSpandauBallet frontman Tony Hadley back in 1983. Nobody knew what he meant, but it’s an undeniable fact that gold has been one of mankind’s most prized and precious commodities since we first crawled out of the primordial ooze back in stone age times. Kings and Queens make their crowns off it, countries secure their economies on it, and pirates of old filled their treasure chests with it. It is a priceless, glittering thread that has run through the warp and weft of our history for millennia, but how much do we really know about this, the 79th element of the periodic table? Here’s 24 24-carat facts about our favourite precious metal… IN THE song Gold Gold, TonyHadleyassures the precious metal “You’re indestructable.” But scientists couldn’t disagree more with the old New Romantic warbler, because gold has no less than 18 radioactive isotopes. One of these, 198Au, Au, has a half-life of less than three days, emitting Beta particles and decaying into a stable form of mercury - 198Hg. Other ways in which gold can be destroyed include placing it in front of the proton beam of a cyclotron, bombarding it with gamma rays until it decays into Platinum, or chopping it up into little bits and flushing it down the toilet. IF YOU fancy making a cup of tea using gold instead of water, you forget it. That’s because gold boils at a scorching 2970˚C, meaning that your kettle would have boiled away long before the gold inside was even tepid. IF YOU were to somehow manage to boil enough gold to brew up a pot of tea, by the time it had cooled down to a drinkable temperature of 60˚C, your tea would have stewed. And turned solid. AS AN inert metal, gold is perfectly safe to eat; indeed, if you save up and go for a meal at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Restaurant, your shrimps may well arrive at the table sheathed in a shimmering shell of gold leaf. If you get the shits after eating them, it’s nothing to do with the gold. You’ve probably just been laid low by a soupçon of untreated human sewage, just like 500 diners at the exclusive eaterie were back in 2009. YOU might expect the chemical symbol for gold to be ‘Go’, but you’d be wrong, because it’s actually ‘Au’. “Nobody knows why,” says slap-eggheaded TV boffin Jim Al-Khalili. “It’s probably to do with the spelling of the Latin name for it or something. I don’t know, because when I was doing Chemistry at the University of Surrey, I missed the lecture on gold because I was selling rag mags in Wolverhampton.” DESPITE their name, ‘goldfish’ only contain about 0.2 microgrammes of gold, worth abouthalfapennyonthe bullion market. Yet if you want to buy a goldfish, you won’t get much change out of £2.50. That’s an eye-watering 50,000% mark-up that the rob-dog owners of pet shops are trousering. WHEN UK drum ’n’ bass star Clifford Price MBE was adopted by children’s TV show Blue Peter, viewers were invited to write and propose a stage name for him. The most popular suggestion was “Goldie”, after his trademark mouthful of precious metal gnashers. Goldie was then takenhometo live with presenter Simon Groom on his farm in Dethick, Derbyshire. COMEDY AMERICAN President Donald J Trump famously has a solid gold lift in Trump Tower as a tawdry display of his wealth. What is less well known is that the POTUS also keeps a solid platinum lift in a storeroom, with instructions that the two lifts should be swapped over if the price of platinum ever exceeds that of gold. IF YOU take a piece of gold jewellery to be valued at the Antiques Roadshow, Roadshow the presenters can tell you exactly when and where it was made. That’s because each gold item bears a “hallmark” - a tiny series of symbols unique to each
place and yearofmanufacture. The experts will examine the hallmark through a jeweller’s loupe, stop the cameras and look it up in a book, then start filming again and pretend that they just knew it off the top of their head. AND WHEN they have to say what the value is, for insurance purposes, they stop the cameras and look it up in the ‘Completed Listings’ on eBay. YOU’LL never see a gold thermometer. That’s because, unusually for a metal, it dissolves in mercury. “I don’t know why this happens,” says chrome-domed TV boffin Jim Al-Khalili. “When I was at university, I missed the lecture on mercury because I was off doing a sponsored bed-push in Dagenham.” ‘EL DORADO’ was a fabled South American city of gold, spokenof spoken of withaweby with awe by returning Spanish Conquistadors. It was also the title of a dismal, early evening BBC soap opera that was so bad that even The One Show seemed like a better replacement. IN THE American goldrush of 1849, thousands of people descended on the Klondyke in order to pan for gold. This process involved an aged man with an unruly beard filling a wok with grit from a riverbed and swilling it round while looking for a telltale sparkle from a fleck of the elusive
IT’S a well-known fact that all the gold in the world, if melted down, could fit in a block between the four feet of the Eiffel Tower. However, security would be an issue as a 200,000 ton block of solid gold sitting unattended in the middle of Paris would be an open invitation to passing thieves.
IF ALL the gold in the world was taken from under the Eiffel Tower, melted down, and made into a wire 2mm thick, it would go around the world an incredible 75 times.
IF YOU halved the thickness of the wire, you might think that it would go round the world 150 times. But you’d be wrong, because according to scientists, when you halve the diameter of a piece of wire, you increase its length by a factor of 4. So it would actually go round 300 times.
AT THE end of the iconic movie The Italian Job, the gang’s getaway coach is left dangling precariously over an Alpine precipice as a large pile of gold bars slides ever closer to its back doors. But scientists from the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington have calculated that such a situation could never
occur. “Assuming that the stack of gold and the bus’s engine block were of equal volume, and that the cliff edge forms a fulcrum at a central point along its wheelbase, then allowing for the different densities of the two metals, the gold would have to be 2.44 times closer to the pivot point in order for equilibrium to be achieved. Once the gold overcame its inertial friction and began to slide away from the fulcrum, as it does in the film, it would exert a significant moment that would immediately upset the static equilibrium of the system, creating a dynamic force that would topple the bus down the mountain. So it’s bollocks,” said the Government’s chief scientific adviser Professor Patrick Vallance.
THESE days, the only people who pan for gold are third-rate celebrities making gentle ITV travelogues, standing in wellies in a Welsh river with a bloke from the local mining museum. Before going off to shoe a horse, make some cheese and do some dry stone walling.
THERE are two types of gold: normal gold, used for jewellery, micro-electronic circuitry and gaudily gilding everything that the Queen owns, and nazi gold, which is all in Switzerland.
THE WORD ‘gold’ features in the title of every James Bond eg. Goldfinger, The Man with the Golden Gun,
Goldeneye, and all the others,
THE FIRST actor to play James Bond was Bob Holness, who later went on to host kids’ TV quiz Blockbusters, where winning contestants got the chance to take part in the ‘Gold Run’. Holness also played the saxophone solo on the Gerry Rafferty single Baker Street, which, after selling a billion copies, “went gold.”
UNLIKE most metals, gold does not react with oxygen at any temperature. “Don’t ask me why,” says billiard-ballcraniumed TV boffin Jim
Al-Khalili. “When we did oxygen, I was hitch-hiking near Arbroath, dressed as a convict and carrying a ball and chain as part of a charity jailbreak.”
AMAZINGLY, the word “gold” doesn’t appear in the Bible except once in the story of the Nativity as recounted in the Gospel of St Matthew, when the Wise Men bring the baby Jesus gifts of it, frankincense and myrrh. And another 4510 times.
believe there may be a planet in the universe universe that that is is completely completely made of gold. All the boulders, rocks and even the sand on the beach on this alien world are pure 24-carat bling. But before you jump in the nearest rocket and blast off to the other side of the galaxy, think again. Because gold is so common on this distant world, it will be utterly worthless. The precious commodities there will be things that are worthless to us on earth, such as old batteries, bottle tops and elastic bands.