'Can we now transmute base substances into gold' And My Post...

Concerning this Cecil column about transmuting base substances into gold, I actually already explored this very topic in this thread not too long ago.

I’m not bitter or anything. But I just thought I should point this out.

Thank you:)

The question did come to Cecil’s attention through several routes, including your post and a several emails over the years. This is not infrequent, and Cecil picks the query for the “launch” from the several that were presented. Sometimes, he picks one that’s most amusing. If his column is long, he picks the shortest one; if he needs “filler”, he picks a longer one. Luck of the draw. Sorry.

So the Master found his post lacking in wit, brevity or prolixity.


Ummm. Only from a certain point of view. The Master chose from about four similar questions. My comment was meant to say that I don’t know what makes him choose one over the other. Sometimes it’s length, sometimes it’s shortness. Sometimes it’s something to tease the letter-writer about. Sometimes it’s the first one sent in, sometimes it’s the most recent. ::: shrug ::: It’s luck of the draw, and not necessarily anything that Jim B said (or didn’t say.)


Just one problem.

Mercury isn’t a base metal.
Powers &8^]

The alchemists would disagree with you. If only they were alive.

I am not sure that is true. It may not have been in the same class as gold, but they certainly thought that mercury was very special stuff, much superior to, and more spiritual than, regular base metals like iron, lead or copper. Mercury played a very large role in many alchemical experiments, and in alchemical theory.

Actually, I don’t think that copper was entirely considered a base metal, either. It’s clearly not as noble as silver or gold, but it’s also nobler than iron or tin.

My assumption was that Powers was using this definition of “base metal” which I think doesn’t include mercury:

While alchemists certainly thought that mercury - quicksilver, with “quick” meaning “alive” - was special, the fact that they were trying to convert it to gold makes it a base metal. At least for a quip.

Are we certain that ancient alchemists actually attempted to transmute mercury? I thought it was mostly true base metals – iron, nickel, copper, tin, etc.
Powers &8^]

I don’t think they tried to use mercury as the flour in the recipe, but they sometimes (often) used it as the salt.