24THINGS NEVER KNEW ABOUT GOLD

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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

pre­cious metal.

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,

Casino Royale.

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.

AS­TRONOMERS

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.

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