Science in movies and video-games

The gold as in The Italian Job

01/09/2018 ⋅ No comments

Par Timo van Neerden

gold bullions
When it comes to gold, there is systematically a misconception about it, everywhere, every-time, especially in movies.

Gold, the fact is, is dense. Really dense. Gold has a density of 19.3 grams per cubic centimeter.

It’s seven times as dense as aluminum, nearly trice as dense as steal and a little bit less than twice as dense as lead. What this means, is that one kilo of gold is also seven times less big than one kilo of aluminum, nearly a third as big as one kilo of steal, and so on.

One can calculate that a little cube of gold of 3.8 cm (1.5 inch) weight 1 kilo. That’s right: the size of one kilo of gold is less than the size of an average chicken egg.
Compare this to one liter of water, or milk, that weights also one kilo.

This said, as depicted in movies, an ingot of gold, or Gold Bar, usually have standardizes dimensions :

  • Length (top): 210–290 mm (~8.3–11.4 inches)
  • Width (top): 55–85 mm (~2.2–3.3 inches)
  • Height: 25–45 mm (~1–1.8 inches)

And thus they weight… 12.4 kilos. Is this something you can just take with two fingers, drop on the table or put in your pocket ? I don’t think so…

In the Italian Job, the 2003 movie, the main characters rob an amount of 208 gold bullion of roughly the sizes I list above. In the movie, it is estimated worth 35 millions USD.

If you have followed this is far from accurate : 208 bullion, each weighing 12.4 kilos, have a net weight of 2'579.2 kilos (two and a half metric tons !). First, you can’t store that on then second floor in an old Venetian house: it would instantly break through the flood. Secondly, it would be possible, but quite a challenge though, to transport that in a van, with 6 people above that.

At the end, all that gold is moved using Minis, the smallest cars one can imagine :

What’s weird though, is that even the weight of the gold is underestimated, and by far, the price is quite right: they say that is was a 35 million USD robbery, which is exactly how much worth 2.5 tons of gold would be worth back in 2003 (when one kilo would cost 15'000 USD). Of course, in 2018, it would cost about three times as much.

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