The alchemists of legend and yore sought to transmute elements, among other things -- the classical "lead into gold", for one. Nowadays, we've figured out the nuclear physics required for transmutation well enough that a motivated amateur can pull it off in their garage (fusor + target, or a small particle accelerator for that matter) and synthetic elements are a part of daily life (Am-241 in ionization smoke detectors).

Jill is faced with an intelligent alchemist transported from the past (or another world) who:

  • has no prior knowledge of nuclear physics (i.e. may have heard of the concept of atoms, but nothing more)
  • has sought the transmutation of elements through other means (looking for the ol' Philsopher's Stone et al)
  • and has a basic understanding of chemical elements (i.e. they understand the difference between a pure element such as a single metal and a compound or an alloy)

, and has the knowledge and parts access to build particle-physics laboratory gear at the level of a physics graduate student, as well as a quite beefy wall socket to run it off of. Given this, how can our transmuter of elements convincingly demonstrate to the alchemist that she can perform such a feat at will? It doesn't have to be a specific transmutation -- anything vivid enough to prove to the alchemist that the target matter's been transmuted will do.

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    $\begingroup$ Isn't this pretty much "stick chunk of element A" (shown by chemistry to be element A, having certain properties) "bombard it until it is a chunk of element B and demonstrate that its properties have changed, quad erat demonstratum"? $\endgroup$ – Draco18s May 10 '17 at 2:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Draco18s -- you'd think, but many (most?) of the transmutations that are performed on a regular basis IRL are actually quite subtle in the sense that A and B have similar properties and are hard to separate as a result (think of the hoops involved with PUREX or inside a molybdenum cow for that matter). What I want is a "vivid and dramatic lab demo" transmutation -- something where the change in properties is a "can't miss" $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay May 10 '17 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't a lump of lead turning to gold in front of him be pretty convincing? They knew how to determine that it's gold well enough. $\endgroup$ – Kilisi May 10 '17 at 3:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Kilisi -- that's actually a pain in the arse even with today's tech (definitely not grad-student-gear-level) $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay May 10 '17 at 3:31
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    $\begingroup$ How does our Alchemist know what an element is? That itself is a problem - they might consider Water to be an element, or Silica, or many other stable chemical compounds. 'Transmuting' water into hydrogen and oxygen would appear more dramatic than transmuting lead to gold, even though it's just a chemical reaction. Understanding transmutation requires a fairly detailed understanding of what elements and chemistry are, meaning that you are no longer an Alchemist.. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Dodds May 10 '17 at 7:07

The only requirements to see ghosts, aliens, or proof of God's existence, is being a believer in those things first. Since the alchemist already believes that transmuting elements is possible, you don't have to convince him at all. Maybe he understands the method you are using or maybe not, but he's already convinced.

What you may have troubles with, is convincing him that any transmutation is going to be economically unpractical because of laws of thermodynamics.


First you need to explain what are atoms. And that they make up everything. And that there's are a bit more elements than just 4.

Then you take supersaturated Sodium acetate and turn liquid into solids. BAM! Then you take water and do the ol' party trick turning it into wine.

And that's how you turn alchemist into chemist and then crush his hopes explaining that he need to be physicist to turn led into gold.

And after that you are ready to get your teacher diploma.

  • $\begingroup$ what has to do supersaturated Sodium Acetate precipitation with transmutation? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica May 10 '17 at 8:05
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    $\begingroup$ It change liquid into solid state. So it's step 2 of transmutation "solutio" and then step 7 "cibatio". There are 12 steps of transmutations and every alchemist should know and recognize them. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY May 10 '17 at 8:12

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