Friday, September 18, 2009

13 Billion Dollars

The International Monetary Fund has approved a sale of 403 metric tonnes of gold reserves, in a move likely to raise $13bn (£8bn) of cash to replenish its coffers for lending to low-income countries hit by the global economic downturn.
This article started me considering the stunning density of gold. Water has a density of 1 tonne per cubic meter. If we wanted to put 403 tonnes of water in one place, you would need a container that held 403 cubic meters. With a little rounding, that would be a pool 30 feet wide, 60 feet long and 6 feet deep. Gold has a density of 19.3 tonnes per cubic meter. So 20.9 cubic meters would have a mass of 403 tonnes.

That would almost fit in a pair of pickup trucks; two times 4.5 feet deep by 6 feet wide by 10.5 feet long (again rounding and converting to English units... we really should start calling them American units at this point.) Now of course, the tires would blow out, the frames would buckle, and the beds would pretty much be ironed into the pavement. But it is sort of amazing to consider that a pickup could hold material worth 6.5 billion dollars.

Incidentally there are a couple of elements that have even higher densities; platinum, for example, has a density of 21.45 tonnes per cubic meter.

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