Monday, January 29, 2007

Alchemy

Everybody knows that we could in principle make gold from lead using a particle accelerator such as the LHC -- at billions of dollars per ounce, it just would be extremely expensive gold. Everybody also knows that gold is a chemical element, and hence cannot be produced from other elements by chemical means; you really need a particle accelerator or nuclear reactor to transmute elements (except of course for naturally radioactive elements that sort of transmute themselves).

But there are still those brave souls who will valiantly ignore the insights into the nature of things that science has gathered over the past 300 years, and go on a crucible-sade for the philosophers' stone. I am speaking of the members of the International Alchemy Guild, who will be gathering in Las Vegas for their first conference this year (I wonder if the choice of location is symbolic -- just like the roulette tables are money sinks that only con the stupid, so is alchemy?)

I'd be inclined to think this is a joke, but apparently this is a real organisation, whose membership benefits for those who "[d]emonstrate successful creation of the Vegetable or Mineral Stone in private laboratory work" (or are otherwise co-opted into this exclusive society, such as on account of having bought a mail-order degree from a "hermetic college") include a "gilded Certificate of Membership (suitable for framing)" with an accompanying "license to practice alchemy" (I wonder if that license can serve as a legal defence against fraud charges).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Note that the Stone does not Transmutes lead into Gold, but Mercury into Gold. If you check carefully 201 Hg into 197 Au plus 4 He, I think you will notice it is slightly exoenergetic (you never checked, did you? Nobody does!), and then suitable for tabletop nuclear transmutation experiences. Probably you need a good quantity of pechblende around, so I guess the FBI will we troubled about these people.