Is This What’s Going On? A Set of Questions of Global Concern.

Is This Whats Going On

I have a set of conjectures, and want input from my friends and blog-followers about them. How much of this has actually happened over the past months, weeks, and days?
1. The Chinese have been buying huge amounts of silver, thus driving up its price, because…
2. The political and business leaders in Greater China are, themselves, sick of living in an environmental nightmare based on decades of high consumption of oil and dirty coal, and are working on building enormous numbers of solar panels to get away from fossil fuel consumption, using lots of silver, which has the highest reflectivity of any element. China’s silver buying-spree is being misinterpreted, globally, because China is not well-understood, outside China.
3. These leaders of China have to breathe the same air, for one thing, as many Chinese people with much less power, and going green is the pragmatic thing to do. It is quite Chinese to be pragmatic. Living in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Taipei, or other population centers, air quality is a major issue, as is global warming and other environmental concerns — all issues which many Americans are in the habit of ignoring.
4. As the Chinese phase themselves out of the human addiction to fossil fuels, total global oil consumption drops. Evidence: gasoline prices fell. I was buying for under $2 a gallon a week ago.
5. Falling oil prices have led to severe economic problems in the oil-producing countries of the Middle East. Higher-than-usual amounts of political stability have rippled through the Middle East through the last five years, and this has intensified further in recent months. The latest such development has been in Turkey, often seen as the most politically stable country in the Muslim world, is going through an attempted(?) coup, on the far side of the Middle East from China.
6. In the USA, one of the people running for president is a reactionary xenophobe, as well as a populist demagogue, and is running against an opponent with little to no ethical principles who is winning by default because she’s running against Trump. Donald Trump and his people (and he has a lot of people) have been spewing Islamophobia and Sinophobia, and they’ve been doing it loudly.
7. Many people all over the world are reacting to the Trump Trumpet o’ Hate, and freaking out. Various end-of-the-world scenarios are been floated publicly, especially in cyberspace. People are getting “off the grid” if they can, either because it’s a good idea, or because they’re panicked. In some places, efforts are actually being made to use the force of government to stop people from weaning themselves off the services of utility companies.
8. Few people realize that a lot of this is a set of unintended consequences of China (of all nations) leading the charge to do the right thing regarding oil addiction, from an environmental and ecological point of view, plus having a lunatic run for the White House.
9. The rising price of silver, panic-in-advance about a widely-expected coming collapse of fiat currencies, and the pronouncements and predictions of Ron Paul and his ilk, are all feeding off each other, in an accelerating spiral. In the meantime, the political instability in Turkey is capping off a slight rise in gas prices over recent lows, just in the last week.
10. Most Americans don’t know much about a lot of this because we’re at a point in the current, nasty election cycle that America as a people has simply forgotten (again) that the world outside the United States actually exists. Ignorance about the Middle East, economics, environmental science, and Greater China is widespread in the best of times. Thanks to (a) the “Donald and Hillary Show” playing 24/7 on cable news, (b) civil unrest at home (brutality on the part of some, but not all, police), and (c) a backlash against Black Lives Matter, with horrible behavior from some, but not all, of the protesters on all sides, and (d) an anti-or re-backlash against BLM is in “full throttle” right now, and (e) unrest abroad (Turkey, etc.), these certainly aren’t the best of times.
I invite anyone to weigh in on the subject of which of the above conjectures are valid, and which are invalid. I have deliberately cited no sources, yet, because I am asking for independent peer review, and so do not wish to suggest sources at this point. In addition to “Which of these statements are correct, and which are wrong?” I am also asking, “What am I missing?”

Have you noticed what silver’s been doing lately? The price of silver is literally on fire!

silver is literally on fire

Because of the price of silver being literally on fire, they will not be buying and selling troy ounces of metallic silver when the markets open in New York tomorrow morning. Instead, they will be selling “oxide ounces” of silver oxide, in sealed-plastic capsules of this black powder, with an oxide ounce of silver oxide being defined as that amount of silver oxide which contains one troy ounce of silver.

silver oxide capsule

A troy ounce of silver is 31.1 grams of that element, which has a molar mass of 107.868 g/mole. Therefore, a troy ounce of silver contains (31.1 g)(1 mol/107.868 g) = 0.288 moles of silver. An oxide ounce of silver oxide would also contain oxygen, of course, and the formula on the front side of a silver oxide capsule (shown above; information on the back of the capsule gives the number of oxide ounces, which can vary from one capsule to another) is all that is needed to know that the number of moles of oxygen atoms (not molecules) is half the number of moles of silver, or (0.288 mol)/2 = 0.144 moles of oxygen atoms. Oxygen’s non-molecular molar mass is 15.9994 g, so this is (0.144 mol)(15.9994 g/mol) = 2.30 g of oxygen. Add that to the 31.1 g of silver in an oxide ounce of silver oxide, and you have 31.1 g + 2.30 g = 33.4 grams of silver oxide in an oxide ounce of that compound.

In practice, however, silver oxide (a black powder) is much less human-friendly than metallic silver bars, coins, or rounds. As you can easily verify for yourself using Google, silver oxide powder can, and has, caused health problems in humans, especially when inhaled. This is the reason for encapsulation in plastic, and the plastic, for health reasons, must be far more substantial than a mere plastic bag. For encapsulated silver oxide, the new industry standard will be to use exactly 6.6 g of hard plastic per oxide ounce of silver oxide, and this standard will be maintained when they begin manufacturing bars, rounds, and coins of silver oxide powder enclosed in hard plastic. This has created a new unit of measure — the “encapsulated ounce” — which is the total mass of one oxide ounce of silver oxide, plus the hard plastic surrounding it on all sides, for a total of 33.4 g + 6.6 g = 40.0 grams, which will certainly be a convenient number to use, compared to its predecessor-units.  

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[This is not from The Onion. We promise. It is, rather, a production of the Committee to Give Up on Getting People to Ever Understand the Meaning of the Word “Literally,” or CGUGPEUMWL, which is fun to try to pronounce.]



A Truncated Icosahedron, Formed By Silver Pipes, and Gold Fastenings

Trunc Icosa gold and silver

I made this precious-metal version of the truncated icosahedron using Stella 4d, a program which is available here:

One Dozen Precious Metal Cubes: A Problem Involving Geometry, Chemistry, and Finance (Solution Provided, with Pictures)

The troy ounce is a unit of mass, not weight, and is used exclusively for four precious metals. At this time, the prices per troy ounce, according to this source for current precious metal prices, for these four elements, are:

  • Gold, $1,094
  • Palladium, $600
  • Platinum, $965
  • Silver, $14.82

(As a side note, it is rare for platinum to have a lower price per troy ounce than gold, as is now the case. I would explain the reasons this is happening, except for one problem: I don’t understand the reasons, myself, well enough to do so. Yet.)

A troy ounce equals 31.1034768 grams, but, for most purposes, 31.103 g, or even 31.1 g, works just fine.

Also, as you can see here, these “troy elements” are all in one part of the periodic table. This is related to the numerous similarities in these elements’ physical and chemical properties, which is itself related, of course, to the suitability of these four elements for such things as jewelry, coinage, and bullion.


To determine the volume of a given mass of one of these metals, it is also necessary to know their densities, so I looked them up, using Google (they are not listed on the periodic table above):

  • Gold, 19.3 g/cm³
  • Palladium, 11.9 g/cm³
  • Platinum, 21.46 g/cm³
  • Silver, 10.49 g/cm³

In chemistry, of course, one must often deal with elements (as well as other chemicals) in terms of the numbers of units (such as atoms or molecules), except for one problem: this is absurdly impractical, due to the outrageously small size of atoms. Despite this, though, it is necessary to count such things as atoms in order to do much chemistry at all, so chemists have devised a “workaround” for this problem: when counting units of pure chemicals, they don’t count such things as atoms or molecules directly, but count them a mole at a time. A mole is defined as a number of things equal to the number of atoms in exactly 12 grams of pure carbon-12. To three significant figures, this number is 6.02 x 10²³. To deal with moles, since atoms have differing masses, we need to know the molar mass (mass of one mole) of whatever we are dealing with to convert, both directions, between moles and grams. Here are the molar masses of the four troy-measured elements, as seen on the periodic table above, below each element’s symbol.

  • Gold, 196.97 g
  • Palladium, 106.42 g
  • Platinum, 195.08 g
  • Silver, 107.87 g

I’ve given these numbers  as the information needed to solve the following problem: rank one dozen precious metal cubes (descriptions follow) by ascending order of volume. There are three cubes each of gold, palladium, platinum, and silver. Four of the twelve (one of each element) have a mass of one troy ounce each. Another four each have a value, at the time of this writing, of $1,000. The last set of four each contain one mole of the element which composes the cube, and, again, there is one of each of these same four elements in the set.

If you would like to do this problem for yourself, the time to stop reading is now. Otherwise (or to check your answers against mine), just scroll down.












In the solutions which follow, a rearrangement of the formula for density (d=m/v) is used; solved for v, this equation becomes v = m/d. In order, then, by both volume and edge length, from smallest to largest, here are the twelve cubes:

Smallest cube: one troy ounce of platinum

One tr oz, or 31.103 g, of platinum would have a volume of v = m/d = 31.103 g / (21.46 g/cm³) = 1.449 cm³. A cube with this volume would have an edge length equal to the its volume’s cube root, or 1.132 cm. (This explanation for the calculation of the edge length, given the cube’s volume, is omitted in the items below, since the mathematical procedure is the same each time.)

Second-smallest cube: $1000 worth of gold

Gold worth $1000, at the time of this posting, would have a troy mass, and then a mass in grams, of $1000.00/($1,094.00/tr oz) = (0.914077 tr oz)(31.103 g/tr oz) = 28.431 g. This mass of gold would have a volume of v = m/d = 28.431 g / (19.3 g/cm³) = 1.47 cm³. A cube with this volume would have an edge length of  1.14 cm.

Third-smallest cube: $1000 worth of platinum

Platinum worth $1000, at the time of this posting, would have a troy mass, and then a mass in grams, of $1000.00/($965.00/tr oz) = (1.0363 tr oz)(31.103 g/tr oz) = 32.231 g. This mass of platinum would have a volume of v = m/d = 32.231 g / (21.46 g/cm³) = 1.502 cm³. A cube with this volume would have an edge length of  1.145 cm.

Fourth-smallest cube: one troy ounce of gold

One tr oz, or 31.1 g, of gold would have a volume of v = m/d = 31.1 g / (19.3 g/cm³) = 1.61 cm³. A cube with this volume would have an edge length of 1.17 cm.

Fifth-smallest cube: one troy ounce of palladium

One tr oz, or 31.1 g, of palladium would have a volume of v = m/d = 31.1 g / (11.9 g/cm³) = 2.61 cm³. A cube with this volume would have an edge length of 1.38 cm.

Sixth-smallest cube: one troy ounce of silver 

One tr oz, or 31.103 g, of silver would have a volume of v = m/d = 31.103 g / (10.49 g/cm³) = 2.965 cm³. A cube with this volume would have an edge length of 1.437 cm.

Sixth-largest cube: $1000 worth of palladium

Palladium worth $1000, at the time of this posting, would have a troy mass, and then a mass in grams, of $1000.00/($600.00/tr oz) = (1.6667 tr oz)(31.103 g/tr oz) = 51.838 g. This mass of palladium would have a  volume of v = m/d = 51.838 g / (11.9 g/cm³) = 4.36 cm³. A cube with this volume would have an edge length of  1.63 cm.

Fifth-largest cube: one mole of palladium

A mole of palladium, or 106.42 g of it, would have a volume of v = m/d = 106.42 g / (11.9 g/cm³) = 8.94 cm³. A cube with this volume would have an edge length of 2.07 cm.

Fourth-largest cube: one mole of platinum

A mole of platinum, or 195.08 g of it, would have a volume of v = m/d = 195.08 g / (21.46 g/cm³) = 9.090 cm³. A cube with this volume would have an edge length of 2.087 cm.

Third-largest cube: one mole of gold

A mole of gold,  or 196.97 g of it, would have a volume of v = m/d = 196.97 g / (19.3 g/cm³) = 10.2 cm³. A cube with this volume would have an edge length of  2.17 cm.

Second-largest cube: one mole of silver

A mole of silver, or 107.87 g of it, would have a volume of v = m/d = 107.87 g / (10.49 g/cm³) = 10.28 cm³. A cube with this volume would have an edge length of 2.175 cm.

Largest cube: $1000 worth of silver

Silver worth $1000, at the time of this posting, would have a troy mass, and then a mass in grams, of $1000.00/($14.82/tr oz) = (67.48 tr oz)(31.103 g/tr oz) = 2099 g. This mass of gold would have a volume of v = m/d = 2099 g / (10.49 g/cm³) = 200.1 cm³. A cube with this volume would have an edge length of  5.849 cm.

Finally, here are pictures of all 12 cubes, with 1 cm³ reference cubes for comparison, all shown to scale, relative to one another.

dozen cubes

A third of these cubes change size from day-to-day, and sometimes even moment-to-moment during the trading day, if their value is held constant at $1000 — which reveals, of course, which four cubes they are. The other eight cubes, by contrast, do not change size — no precious metal prices were used in the calculation of those cubes’ volumes and edge lengths, precisely because the size of those cubes is independent of such prices, due to the way those cubes were defined in the wording of the original problem.

Silver Conversion Chart: Troy, Metric, and U.S. Coin Information


I’m most likely to need the information in the top third of this chart, myself, but I continued it all the way through 100 kg, for the benefit of those with much more money to invest in silver than I have.

How much does silver cost, per troy ounce? Right now, it’s in the $15 neighborhood, but that changes all the time. This is the website I use to keep an eye on the “spot” price of silver, but there are many other such sources, as well.