If you could turn everything you touched into gold, how soon would your life become unbearable? Why would this superpower not make you rich? Why could things around you explode? And how could one touch end all life on the planet?
You wake up and discover that you now have a superpower. Anything your hands touch would immediately become solid gold. Like your bed. Naturally, this calls for a selfie. You reach for your phone. But suddenly, it turns into the precious metal right before your very eyes. It sure is amazing. And quite scary. Whatever you touch, even unintentionally, transforms.
You can’t brush your teeth, eat breakfast or even drive to work. And if you think you wouldn’t need to work a day in your life with all these riches, think again. You’d soon understand why you could single-handedly make gold the cheapest metal on Earth. So how would you manage to do anything?
Ok, you try putting gloves on. But surprise surprise. These also turn into gold. Yeah, it’s very impractical, but at least these golden gloves will now act as a barrier between your hands and your surroundings. You’d now have to maneuver and do everything with your arms, elbows and your brand-new-yet-quite stiff golden mittens.
With your hands so out of commission, you’d need to ask your family and friends for help with getting dressed and making meals. Then there’s eating. Ever try stuffing your mouth with metal bricks on your hands? As you learn more about your new ability, you might suspect that there are things you should never touch again. Yeah, you’d be right.
No more physical contact with anyone. Scratching the belly of your neighbor’s cat is out, unless priceless feline sculptures are your thing. But hold on for a second. Your new power is a little more complex than that. Maybe everything you touch might not be so perfect in its appearance. The reality might blow up your mind.
One atom of gold has 79 protons and 118 neutrons. Let’s just say it’s pretty dense. Tungsten, platinum, iron. Gold beats them all. Which would be a huge problem for you. Yeah, if you started running around and turning everything into gold, atoms at the molecular level would become too dense and start to repel each other. Everything you transform would explode.
To avoid this, your power wouldn’t instantly turn boring molecules into gold molecules. It would shake them up to make everything you touch gold while keeping its original shape and size. Except that would make objects look kind of spongy. Because, in this scenario, there would be a lot of wiggle room between these new atoms. Well hey, better that than explosions, right?
Indeed. Just don’t trip and accidentally touch the ground. If you did, Earth’s entire crust would suddenly have a little extra give to it. And this would be bad news for every living thing on the planet. The forces of gravity would compress Earth to close up all those new microscopic spaces. And as the Earth shrunk, the ground would move away from your feet.
You and everything around you would become suspended in the air as Earth gets smaller. When the shrinkage stopped and gravity kicked in again, that’s when your real troubles would begin. You and nearly 8 billion other people would feel the deadliest body slam known to humanity. OK let’s go out on a limb here and say you managed to survive this.
Well you’d now live on an uninhabitable globe, surrounded by golden globs of dead people and animals. Growing food would be impossible. No plants means no oxygen. So let’s set aside the harsh reality for a moment to look at what would happen if every item you place a finger on simply becomes gold, minus the catastrophic repercussions.
Well then you could become really rich in no time. Just touch one ceramic mug and it would now be worth over $15,000. Converting your couch could financially set you up for life. Goodbye student loans, hello beachside villa in the tropics. But don’t get too greedy.
The government might become suspicious of how you’re affording all this and wonder why you’re not declaring all this extra income. And if the global supply of gold suddenly skyrocketed, its price would likely crash. Your hot commodity might quickly lose its value, leaving you right back where you started before discovering your magic hands.
There you are, months after your power was bestowed upon you. You wouldn’t have the cash you thought you would, and you’d have to isolate yourself for the safety of others. You’d be deprived of your human need for connection. Soon enough, your loneliness would make you prone to depression, stress and anxiety.
Yeah you’d realize that the trade-off for the golden touch is human contact. And that not even being surrounded by what was once a precious metal compares to your actual most valuable asset. Your time alongside the ones you care for. You know, there are way better superpowers out there. Like stopping time to enjoy the moments with people you love.
- “Midas”. 2022. worldhistory.org.
- “Swiss Team Engineers First Weavable, Washable, Wearable Pure Gold-Coated Fiber”. Randolph Jonsson. 2011. newatlas.com.
- “Finest silk made of the purest nanometer-thin gold woven into ties and handkerchiefs”. 2011. sciencedaily.com.
- “Why Human Touch Is So Hard To Replace”. William Park. 2020. bbc.com.
- “Density”. 2022. web.fscj.edu.