Saturday, October 20, 2012

Why is gold valuable anyway ? - Midas and Supernovas

Growing up as a child in India in a family of goldsmiths it is hard to ignore the role gold plays in perception of wealth and daily conversation. My uncle would often refer to "stuff" or "maal", meaning gold. On my last visit the regular obsession was checking the current gold price from the wholesalers via SMS. According to a recent article - Man's addiction to gold - India holds pretty large stockpiles of the metal in the proverbial family jewels. It changes hand at marriages as gifts and dowry.

Midas as an allegory of a supernova Gold has no intrinsic bio-chemical value which supports life as the cautionary tale of King Midas points our. Its inherent inertness however gives it great value in the burgeoning electronics industry and it is very rare to start with anyway due to the cosmic element forming processes making it harder and harder to produce heavier elements. The vagaries of nucleosynthesis are so universal that they have even made it to being a Hollywood plot device in "Cowboys and Aliens" where aliens set up a gold mine.

The ultimate statement on how we value things comes down to supply and demand - gold is in short supply due to its nuclear weight and on high demand due to its permanence once acquired. We now just need to find suitable biochemistries or bioelectronics to make it part of a living body. Gold abundance is a measure of the midas touch of supernovas.

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