Is it Possible to Transform Iron into Gold?

The Wonder of the Day we have today may sound like something out of a Harry Potter book. Can iron really be turned into gold? Is magic involved?

Many famous scientists in history believed that iron could be transformed into gold, and they spent centuries trying to make it happen. Before the era of modern science, early scientists were fascinated by alchemy.

Alchemy was a mysterious and secretive practice that had a different perspective on science compared to what we know today. Alchemists believed that metals, which we now know as individual elements, were alive and growing beneath the ground. They thought that metals like iron and lead were simply immature versions of precious metals like silver and gold.

The alchemists believed that they could refine base metals into precious metals if they could find the philosopher’s stone, a mythical substance. The philosopher’s stone was not an actual rock, but a magical wax, liquid, or powder that had the power to heal and prolong life, as well as transform base metals into precious metals.

From our current understanding of science, alchemy may seem absurd. After all, the concept of alchemy contradicts the fundamental laws of chemistry and physics. Rather than the atoms and elements we know today, alchemists believed that everything was composed of four elements: air, earth, fire, and water.

We now know that air, earth, fire, and water are not elements themselves. Therefore, it is impossible to adjust the composition of these elements within iron to turn it into gold. Despite the failure of alchemy to achieve this transformation, it was not entirely fruitless. Scientists and historians credit ancient alchemists for laying the foundation of modern chemistry.

You may already be familiar with one of the most well-known alchemists from ancient times. Have you heard of Sir Isaac Newton? That’s right! Sir Isaac Newton, the inventor of calculus and considered the father of modern physics, was a devoted alchemist who believed he had discovered the philosopher’s stone at one point.

New discoveries have led modern scientists to reassess the importance of alchemy in the development of science. It is now recognized that alchemy was an essential step in the evolution of modern science, rather than being seen as superstitious witchcraft. It was an ancient practice of early scientists attempting to comprehend the world around them.

Experts also point out the scientific advancements that can be attributed to alchemy. For instance, alchemists created new alloys, manufactured acids and pigments, invented distillation apparatuses, and conceived of the concept of atoms long before modern atomic theory. Most importantly, they contributed to the development of the modern scientific method by conducting repeated controlled experiments.

Give It a Try

If you had lived in the past, would you have wanted to be an alchemist? Explore the following engaging activities with a friend or family member:

  • Although you may not possess the ability to transform iron into gold, you do have the power to alter the state of a common compound that is used daily. And what is this compound? It is none other than water! Retrieve an ice cube from your refrigerator and observe as it transforms into liquid water. There are several ways to accomplish this. You could simply allow it to melt on your kitchen countertop, or you could expedite the process by placing it in a pan and heating it. If you wish to convert the liquid water into a gas, you will certainly need that pan. Proceed to heat the water in the pan until it reaches its boiling point. At this stage, you will witness the water within the pan transitioning into water vapor right before your very eyes. Enjoy experimenting with the various states of water!
  • If you desire to acquire further knowledge regarding Isaac Newton’s experiments with alchemy, you can easily access videos showcasing some of his most renowned alchemical experiments by following the provided link. Reflect upon how these experiments aided Newton in becoming the esteemed scientist he was. Was the entirety of alchemy a futile endeavor? Provide reasoning for your response.
  • If you possessed the ability to convert one element into another, how would you utilize this power? Contemplate the elements or objects that you possess in abundance. Subsequently, consider the things that you possess in scarcity, but desire to have more of. For instance, if you possessed this ability, would you invent a machine capable of transforming air into soda? Alternatively, what about converting vegetables into ice cream? Allow your imagination to roam freely and compose a brief story depicting what you would do as a modern-day alchemist. Enjoy the process and be sure to share your story with a friend or family member!

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