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Why Gold Is the Ideal Metal for Currency

Of all of the elements on the periodic table, why did gold become the standard of economic value for so much of human history? NPR asked Sanat Kumar, a professor of chemical engineering at Colombia University. He explained that, ideally, the material used in currency should not be reactive, corrosive, radioactive, too common, or too rare. It also needed to have a low melting point so that it could be shaped into coins. Gold is the element that best matches these criteria:

So we ask Sanat: If we could run the clock back and start history again, could things go a different way, or would gold emerge again as the element of choice?

“For the earth, with every parameter we have, gold is the sweet spot,” he says. “It would come out no other way.”

Link via Gizmodo | Photo by Flickr user Shiny Things used under Creative Commons license

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Date
November 30th, 2010

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Stranger to the World

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