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Gold is a chemical element (symbol Au, atomic number 79). It is not chemically reactive, and is found in elemental form as nuggets or grains in rocks and rivers that eroded them. Its apparent indestructibility, brightness, and color have made it very desirable throughout recorded history. It was used as a basis for currency for a really long time. Due to its high malleability, ductility, resistance to corrosion, and electrical conductivity it also has multiple industrial, medical, and culinary applications. The world consumption of new gold produced is estimated to be about 50% in jewelry, 40% in investments, and 10% in industry.
- Gold is an excellent conductor of electricity, and as mentioned above, does not oxidize or corrode like some other metals. For this reason, its most widespread industrial use is in electronics. Tiny gold wires or traces are typically used as interconnects on circuit boards, chip packages, and the like. Connectors exposed to the environment are often gold-plated for durability. The amount of gold used in these applications is minuscule; gold plating can be only a handful of atoms thick.
- Gold was one of the gifts brought by the Magi at the birth of Jesus. (Actually, about two years or so afterwards - but meh! details!)
- As gold is a special shiny metal, it has attracted the attention of alternative medicine promoters and New Age kooks, who imbue it with all kinds of mystical properties. For instance, colloidal gold is available through many dubious online alternative pharmacy sites as a cure-all along the lines of colloidal silver. Likewise, monoatomic gold powder is said to open the third eye, promote the development of psychic powers, and so on.
- The colour of gold is a metallic yellow, rather than the metallic grey or white of most other metals, due to relativistic effects experienced by the electrons in the atom that subtly change its electronic structure. Without this, gold would look very similar to silver. Gold nanoparticles mixed in bulk materials turn the material red, because their size is so tiny that light interacts with phonons in the lattice structure.
- Gold is much better at reflecting infrared light than silver or aluminum. This is why the James Webb Space Telescope, which includes an infrared camera, has a gold-plated mirror.
- Gold is a soft metal. Because of this, it can easily be shaped into jewelry, flattened into sheets or spun into wire, which you can wrap around your waist for financial security if you are prone to sudden, unexpected and random instances of time travel.
- Gold alloys typically list their purity in "karats", where 1 karat is 1/24 pure gold by weight. 14 karat gold jewelry, for example, is 14/24 gold and 10/24 something else (typically zinc). Don't confuse this with the "carats" used for weighing diamonds; you can have a 14 karat gold ring with a 1 carat diamond on it.
- Gold is very dense (19.3 grams per cubic centimeter at room temperature). By coincidence, tungsten has the same density, so if you're going to buy a cheap knockoff piece of jewelry for your sweetie and claim it's gold, get it made out of tungsten.
- A whole bunch of cranks, survivalists and libertarians have a gold standard fetish. This is generally rooted in distrust of government and its filthy fiat currency.
- Alchemy promises the ability to transmute lead and other substances into gold by removing the imbalanced elements in those substances that impurify them and prevent them from being gold. To do so, you must merely turn the cryptic descriptions of allegedly successful transmutations found in alchemy texts into an accurate recipe. Modern science does not hold this to be possible without the use of nuclear processes (which cost more to harness than the value of the gold produced), but what do those scientists know? Given the potential payout, it still may be worth a try!
- Want to make it easier to visualize huge sums of money? You can use Smaug the Dragon's gold hoard as a fun unit of measurement.