November 21, 2010

Why Gold

With Gold price scaling new heights during the current recession, there has been a justifiable explosion of interest in the shiny, yellow, inert metal. But the question it begs is - why Gold? What is it that make the metal Aurum, with 79 protons so special.

Turns out there is an explanation - a chemical explanation. NPR and Planet money tackled this recently, and requirements for an element to be a form of currency are these:

  • Not a gas
  • Doesn’t corrode or burst into flames
  • Doesn’t kill you
  • Relatively rare, but not too rare
  • Available during ancient times
  • Does not tarnish
  • Has a reasonably low melting point

There is only one element that fits the bill - Gold. The question of course is why do we need to restrict ourselves to elements and not include things like alloys. Not sure if chemistry may have an answer for that question.

The audio of the story from NPR embedded below. Turns out NPR is no longer providing embed code, so had to use a CC shared flash player from Dewplayer to embed the MP3 file from NPR. Thanks NPR, Dewplayer and Creative Commons.

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