Block of the Week: Gold

A shining example of a mineral worth mining for

Pop quiz! What's the 79th element on the periodic table? Could it be... love? No. Of course not. It's Gold! Striking this magnificent mineral is something of a rite of passage in Minecraft. After spending ages mining through cobblestone and coal, you finally see a shiny gleam winking at you from inside the rocks. A few whacks with your pick later, you've struck gold! (Ore!) Said gold ore can then be smelted into shining nuggets of success. This mineral has multiple crafting uses in the game, like clocks and powered rails. Sadly, the golden mining tools you can craft with it may be powerful, but they also break quickly.

Shame, as real gold has a huge amount of uses. But where did it all come from? It could be deep space, according to a 2013 study from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, which concluded all of the gold in our universe likely originated from the collisions of dead stars. Some of that gold even finds its way back into space, as astronaut helmets have a visor coated with a thin layer of gold, to block harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. Whether astronauts actually need those helmets or this is just an ingenious scam to steal gold from work is a debate for another time.

As if originating from dead stars in space isn't awesome enough (it is), gold is often used in circuitry, as it's an excellent conductor of electricity. One that's highly non-reactive with air, water and most other circuitry-ruining substances, meaning it won't corrode or tarnish. We wouldn't recommend smashing it open to find out, but the very device you're reading this on could be powered by gold circuitry!

A NASA spacesuit, with a thin layer of protective gold in the visor. How cool is being an astronaut? You literally wear a golden helmet to work.

Emperor Valentinian was an important enough Roman to be profiled in this 4th Century Gold Solidus, even if they did make his neck look fat.

An Egyptian golden scarab ring, estimated to have been made between 1794 BC and 1648 BC. The earliest examples of golden Jewellery date back to 4000 BC Egypt.

Gold, at this point just showing off, also has many medical uses. It's found in pacemakers, insulin pumps and cancer treatments. It's that non-reactive state of the mineral that's made it such a hit with doctors putting it in the human body. You can even eat gold and it'll just pass through your system naturally! Disgusting/cool!

Little wonder this finite mineral is so highly valued all over the world. We wish the next 'Block of the Week' the best of luck in following a cancer-treating, astronaut-protecting, multi-purpose mineral all the way from space. If we were Cobblestone, we'd be nervously rewriting our CV right now.