Sunday, October 12, 2014

An Alphysicist's Tale

One of my favorite book when I was a kid was The Trumpeter of Krakow.  I loved everything about it, but probably my favorite part was naturally the alchemist subplot.  Before reading the book, I had never heard of the historical alchemists and their attempts to turn lead into gold.  Everyone laughs now at their stupidity in trying to carry out an impossible task, but I always knew that what they were doing in theory was possible.  Their ignorant mistake was in thinking they could turn lead into gold through chemical reactions.  It is possible, theoretically, to turn lead into gold, you just need physics to figure out how to alter the nucleus of lead.  Lead has an atomic number of 82 while gold's is 79. This  means that lead differs from gold by having three more protons in its nucleus and three more electrons revolving around said nucleus.  If a process could be developed to remove three protons from lead, it can be turned into gold.  What is needed then is alphysics, not alchemy.

The photo at the top of this post might look like a simple statue, but it is actually a professor who was a pioneer in the field of alphysics.  He devised a process for turning every molecule in his body into lead.  Unfortunately, the reverse process wasn't successful.  His students immediately went to work to try and figure out where he went wrong.  They worked diligently, but couldn't do it.  Recently, funding for the project was pulled as it wasn't considered a high priority.  And so the professor sits diligently, waiting for the day when physics has advanced enough to find a way to turn him back.

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