Tell A Tale in 500 Words

All That Glisters By Hugh Oxlade

I have done it. I have changed lead into gold.

Well, not me exactly. I masterminded and supervised the project, but much of the work was carried out by other members of my team. The credit should go to the twelve of us who slaved for hundreds of hours each to make the process possible. We of course also relied heavy on work completed by others, who made the discoveries and built the equipment which meant that by the 21st century turning lead into gold was no longer a crazy fantasy. Those who allowed us to use their particle accelerator to achieve our goal also deserve a mention.

When I say changed lead into gold, of course, I mean three atoms of lead into three of gold. Any larger quantity would have impossible given our current knowledge and the resources at our disposal. Even though our achievement could only be detected by the most sensitive scientific instruments available, powered by the world’s third most powerful supercomputer, I still feel that this was a major step for humanity, to have realised the dream of ancient alchemists, albeit not quite in the way they would have envisaged.

This operation, of course, was not without its costs. We created a few yoctograms of gold, which could not exactly be taken to a local pawnbroker, while the research budget for the project was several million pounds, not incorporating the cost of the energy powering the particle accelerator. Some might reasonably ask whether our project was indeed ‘worth it’, but for me the proof that we can engineer such a change is not something to which we can stick a simple price label.

We will, of course, need to publicise our achievement. Admittedly, for some, the changing of lead into gold may mean nothing, although I do despair for such people. Others may never receive news of our project, because they miss it in the hurly-burly of the everyday. For those who do become aware of our achievement, there may well be no immediate material change to their lives, but I hope at least their minds will be enriched when they discover what stupendous things humanity can achieve when it sets its mind to something.

The process of changing atoms into gold atoms is, of course, somewhat easier with some elements other than lead, the very easiest being platinum. Changing platinum into gold, however, simply does not have the social resonance of achieving the same thing with lead. Thank goodness, indeed, that ancient alchemists had not sought the method of turning hydrogen into gold, otherwise we would still be hard at work! What we have demonstrated so significantly, after all, however, is that the possibilities truly are endless.


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