Wednesday, May 23, 2012


It's a little weird, I know, but I may have a favorite element—tungsten.  This conclusion is based solely on my willingness to pay extra for products that contain tungsten like saw blades and router bits.  So it was with a great deal of amusement I have been following the story of how allegedly, some gold bars on the market are not really gold, but tungsten that has been gold-plated. (gasp! horror!)  As I have lived my life, I have shown that I am MUCH more interested in tungsten than gold.  So my main reaction is "and why would that be a problem?"

It is here that we encounter a wonderful example of Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class. The number of useful applications for gold is quite small.  Gold is mainly used for adornment and as a "store" of value, so its ceremonial uselessness is beyond reproach.  By the rules of conspicuous waste, gold is an element of unsurpassed status.  On the other hand, tungsten's usefulness is arguably second only to iron (steel).  Therefore its status rivals that of dung.

Thanks to belligerence in our international relationships, we may soon discover just HOW important tungsten is because China mines most of it and she has begun to tinker with export controls.

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