Nuclear Physics brings Alchemy back

  • Imagine you are sipping tea or coffee while discussing various issues with a broad and diverse network of students, colleagues, and friends brought together by the common bond of physics, graduate school, and the physics GRE.

Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Jun 21, 2017 8:39 pm

Nuclear Physics brings Alchemy back

Post by NonGrataEngineering » Sat Jun 24, 2017 10:49 pm

From time to time I am having a little fun asking people two questions. Is it possible to achieve what alchemists wanted - lead to gold transformation? Everyone gives me a right answer: "go to hell" or "hell no, don’t you go to school, alchemy was a pseudoscience"

Then I ask a second question. Is it possible to get one periodic element from another? Most of the people do not fully understand the meaning but some give the right answer - "Yes, it is called nuclear reaction" and almost immediately come to realisation - it was the same question asked twice. Lead and gold are both metals, both from periodic table.

According to both Bohr’s atomic and quantum mechanical models, the difference between lead and gold is three protons in atom nucleus. If we remove those extra protons from lead nucleus we get an atom of gold and some energy. Unfortunately we do not have the know-how to exercise that kind of control, yet.

I don’t think that synthetic gold will be financially feasible, but we are already running short of some rear earth metals, that shortage holds back our technological advance. Alchemy also, can be a good alternative or supplement to asteroid mining …

Posts: 36
Joined: Mon Mar 14, 2016 9:21 am

Re: Nuclear Physics brings Alchemy back

Post by Qwaps » Mon Jun 26, 2017 4:33 am

1.- It is *very* unpractical
2.- If you somehow (unlikely because point 1) get a source of unlimited gold, gold becomes worthless by inflation (think California gold rush, gold taken by conquistadors in Americas, etc...)
3.- Remember that gold by itself is quite a boring material, only valued because... people have historically valued it! There are much more interesting materials one can get by transmutation, like plutonium :)

Post Reply