Inventions Out of Time | Alchemy

Inventions Out of Time | Alchemy


Alchemy is the perfect way to while away those rainy afternoons. Fun for the whole family, alchemy is engaging and easily accessible for all ages. The only problem is that it is perhaps too easy. Turning base metals into gold is a great way to entertain the kids, but it doesn’t hold much for the adult looking for a challenge. The only difficult part is turning the objects back to how they started. Many a time have I transmuted an apple, or a banana, or a pickle, only to get peckish a few hours later.

Back in the good old days (pre-1976) you also had to be careful about producing so much gold that you devalue the world gold standard and cause economic collapse. The youth of today aren’t lucky enough to experience the thrill of ethically creating gold, sitting up at night, worrying if tomorrow will be the day that you receive a tersely worded letter from the World Monetary Fund. Nowadays the youth have more gold than an Aztec jewellery store. 

Of course, many emphasise that alchemy should be understood as a spiritual process as opposed to a physical one. According to this school of thought, the act of transforming ‘lesser’ metals into gold is a metaphor for the flourishing of the copper industry between 1999 and 2006, when the price of copper rose from US$1.32/kg to US$8.27/kg.

One of the only drawbacks of alchemy is the inexplicable inability to transmute living human flesh. There is something mystical and abstract about the human form, some reason, quite beyond me, why humans can’t fit inside my test tube. After all, despite her best efforts, not even Harlene Hayne can turn students into gold.

This article first appeared in Issue 17, 2017.
Posted 12:39pm Sunday 30th July 2017 by Charlie O’Mannin.