"54. Do you not realize how much gold actually weighs?
Writers frequently misapply, distort, or outright forget about the concept of density and its implications. This results in such oddities as most metals, including gold, being treated as weighing the same as an equivalent volume of iron or steel, with the possible exceptions of aluminum (famous for weighing less) and lead (famous for weighing a lot). The only thing typically treated as denser than lead is matter from a neutron star, by orders of magnitude — there's apparently nothing in between.
By the same token, anyone can lift as much of a "light" object, such as feathers, Styrofoam, or in the worst cases even stacked flat paper
, as can be made practical to carry.
What's worse, even if the writers get it right, sometimes the actors won't, due to not compensating for the difference between the weight of the prop and the weight of the object it's supposed to represent through acting.
Generally, the only exception to "people carrying around big gold ingots with ease" comes when the density of gold relative to other substances is itself a major plot point. Especially since gold is actually of 70% higher density than lead.
Sometimes an Acceptable Break from Reality
, sometimes not. Keep in mind that sometimes reality can make something incredibly boring. (One of the most common house rules for most tabletop games is that gold is weightless). Balloonacy
is a subtrope dealing with wild over- and under-estimations of the lifting capacity of Helium, Hydrogen or hot air. Soft Water
follows this trope, and Briefcase Full of Money
is closely related.
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Anime and Manga
- Skipper from The Daughter of Twenty Faces must be one heck of a strong guy, since he manages to transport not one but two large cases of gold. The fact that he does it underwater only adds to the difficulty, since he has to wear a clumsy diving suit. Especially since gold weighs about 19 times as much as water, and the buoyant forces would make it weigh about 18 times as much.
- In Detective Conan one episode has golden bricks which were covered in moss to make them look like old stone bricks, and the titular character easily lifted as if it were that light.
- Future Police Urashiman episode 22. Ryu, in an invasion of Necrime's fortress, fills his shirt with gold bars, which he has no trouble picking up. He's weighed down, but he can still walk and he can pick the bars up with one hand.
- Since we talked about density and not only the portrayal of gold, Gundam is a chaotic offender.
- Gundam 00 had it slightly realistic as the one made from average metal weighed up to 134 tons and a walking brick to boot, these that are far lighter (around 60-70 tons) are stated to be made from E-carbon, a super strong material that used in the construction of Space Elevator (theoretically, Truth in Television) and yet, they're slender, far from invincible and prefer to dodge instead.
- In Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny, The Kingdom (Orb) has their Mecha-Mooks (Astray & Murasame) far lighter than The Federation (OMNI) and The Alliance (ZAFT), and in a way of Lampshade Hanging/ Hand Wave, is made of Foaming Metal.
- Original Mobile Suit Gundam, by the advancement of technology, Mobile Weapons constantly decreased in gross weight (and to a lesser extent, size) while retaining same or more firepower yet much faster than the original.
- Gundam Wing is the WORST offender in that case, while the titular Gundams are made from...well, Gundanium Alloy, that would be a Hand Wave for them having 7-8 ton. Meanwhile, 7.0 tons LEO are made from titanium alloy.
- Averted in Naruto. The Fourth Kazekage has the power to control gold, but gold is realistically heavy and malleable in this series. Instead of using it offensively, he uses these properties of gold to interfere with his foes' physical attacks, making them heavier.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion, LCL has the density of water if someone is blowing bubbles in it, but has the density of air if someone is crying in it. The ways of the blood of an Eldritch Abomination are mysterious indeed.
- In Ninja Scroll, hordes of Ninjas are seen doing full-on Ninja Runs uphill (well, up inclined planks) onto ships, while carrying chests filled with gold, which are balanced on one shoulder. Those are some damn strong Ninjas.
- One Piece is not known for its realistic physics, but during the Skypeia Arc a group of average, non-powered townspeople collectively carried a chunk of gold the size of an apartment complex (and thus many, many times their collective size) with little difficulty, and were even able to run while carrying said gold. Of course, utterly ridiculous feats of strength are very common in the series.
- Samurai Champloo ep. 13 opens with a group of pirates making a raid, at one point they effortlessly throw suitcases full of gold from ship to ship.
- In Umineko no Naku Koro ni episode 11, Rose puts a brick-sized gold bar into the bag of her nine-year old daughter Maria, who doesn't react even slightly to the weight that must be close to 60 pounds! However, just a bit later Rosa uses the same bag as a blunt weapon with extreme effectiveness — consistency was just too much trouble, apparently. In the Visual Novel, the ingot is given an approximate weight of, I believe, around 11 kilograms; in addition, it's directly stated that what she carries is in a blanket which she later use as a weapon against the goatmen attacking her and Maria
- Welcome to Tranquility: Minxy builds a plane out of solid gold, and it is specifically mentioned that it will not fly because it is too soft and dense a metal. It does anyway.
- X-Men: Piotr Rasputin has an official weight of 114 kg, and a height of 198 cm. When transforming into his metal form, his height becomes 226 cm, while his weight doubles to 228 kg. Assuming these numbers are correct, refers to him turning into metal instead of just gaining a metal coating, his human density is roughly equal to 1 kg/l, his metal form would have a density of 1.35 kg/l, or about half the density of aluminium. The kicker? The metal he transforms into is explicitly compared to osmium, the element with the highest density (22.6 kg/l, or exactly twice as dense as lead). If his metal form actually was osmium, Colossus would weight 3826 kg.
- Most of The Vision's powers derive from his ability to control his density. For him to use this power to become intangible or super-hard is one thing—but he can also use it to become heavy. Changing density doesn't affect his volume, either.
- To be fair, when the Vision becomes super-heavy, his "unused" mass supposed goes to another dimension (presumably the same one he draws on to become more massive).
- On the other hand, Mass Master from Power Pack gets it right. Becoming denser shrinks him, and less dense turns him into a cloud.
- Doll Man, in DC's relaunched Doll Man and Phantom Lady miniseries, became tiny, because his density was increased, while keeping his mass the same - thus making the fact that he can throw punches that full sized people can actually feel plausible. Awesome, makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, they have scenes of Phantom Lady holding him in her hand, or on her shoulder. (Unlike the Atom, or many other shrinking heroes, he doesn't have control of that.)
- The story Astérix and the Cauldron, Asterix is given charge of a small cauldron that is filled to the brim with silver coins. Given the density of silver, the cauldron should weigh more than Asterix does. Despite that, he is able to carry the full cauldron without the aid of the magic potion.
- In a Secret Wars II tie-in issue of Power Man and Iron Fist the Beyonder turns a skyscraper into solid gold; it immedioately collapses in on itself from the weight.
- In a case where density is exaggerated rather than underestimated, the Geico gecko accidentally steps in the cement for a starlette's new Hollywood Walk-of-Fame paving square. He leaves deep tracks in the wet cement, even though such a tiny reptile shouldn't even weigh enough to dimple the surface.
- Again, the density of gold is completely ignored in this DirectTV commercial. Either that, or the women are about 10 times stronger than the Russian guy.
- The Italian Job features several Mini Coopers that are packed full with gold bars, but it doesn't affect their meaneuverability or speed as they zip around Italy. Oddly enough, Charlie does question whether the Minis will be able to take the weight of the gold, suggesting that the writers were aware of the problem. The remake gives it a Hand Wave by stating that they've beefed up the shocks to accomodate the extra weight, though this wouldn't be sufficient in real life. The remake also features the plot point that the robbers identify which truck is carrying the gold based on how low it's sitting.
- In Die Hard With A Vengeance, the trucks loaded with looted gold bullion would not have been able to drive uphill. The producers admitted to making this mistake. They wouldn't have been able to drive at all. In 1995, 150 billion dollars worth of gold should have weighed around over 9,000 tons. 13 trucks? 130 would have had trouble carrying that load. One thief tosses a gold bar to another thief. The way it hits him when he catches it, it should've ruptured a few organs. On the other hand, Zeus is very surprised at how heavy a single gold brick is.
- In Goldfinger, James Bond releases himself from a handcuff by using two gold bars as makeshift hammers. He later throws a bar through a respectable distance, hitting Oddjob with it, but not doing any damage since the henchman is Made of Iron. However, the film has a Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene where Bond explains to Goldfinger how robbing Fort Knox, even if he killed all the troops stationed there, is impossible. Since gold is so heavy, the $15 billion worth at the fort, when added up, would weigh over 10,500 tons. Goldfinger would need at least sixty men, 200 trucks and twelve days to effectively load and take it all, while the US military will likely discover and move to stop the robbery within 2 hours of the first attack. From that, he concludes that Goldfinger's real plan is to use a "dirty" nuclear bomb to irradiate the gold, making it unusable for decades and thus making his own gold much more valuable.
- The Mummy Trilogy:
- The book made of solid gold. And the sequel has a bracelet of the same material. Which is carried by a child most of the picture. Both would be near impossible to carry easily. Oddly enough, earlier in the film, when lugging around the bracelet in a box he comments it weighs a lot.
- To say nothing of the man-sized diamond one person is able to lift (while suspended from a dirigible) without uncoupling his spine.
- The Diamond of Ahm Shere looks in pictures to be less than a cubic foot in volume, and at a rough guesstimate would weigh about 180 pounds. That's a big rock, and Johnathan's no muscle man, but it's not completely impossible. Remember that the guy is durable enough to have survived several trips into the desert at around the turn of the century and greed can drive people to amazing feats.
- Averted in Sherlock Holmes in New York. Holmes quickly realises that emptying the large underground vault of gold via the tunnel that has apparently been dug to it would be impossible in the time available, and that the whole vault is actually a fake built on top of the real one, with the access elevator rigged to stop at the new level, rather than the bottom of the shaft. The gold is meanwhile being removed at a more practical rate.
- Averted in Three Kings where one of the characters picks up a suitcase full of gold, and it promptly rips apart. They eventually are able to move the gold by transporting them in duffel bags with only a few bars in them. Unfortunately the actors still handle them like they didn't weigh more than ordinary bricks, while they held the bars in their hands.
- Ice floats because it is less dense than liquid water. Many movies feature ice sinking in water and becoming a hazard.
- The 1950s sci-fi film Atomic Submarine features the title boat dodging ice falling off the bottom of the Arctic icecap.
- Ice sinks in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
- GI Joe The Riseof Cobra features an underwater ice-fall in the finale, though the ice was filled with metal.
- King Kong vs. Godzilla. At the beginning of the movie, a submarine traveling underwater passes by the iceberg Godzilla was trapped in at the end of Godzilla's Counterattack and chunks of ice begin breaking off as Godzilla starts to stir. Said ice chunks drop like stones around the submarine on a beeline to the seabed.
- In the animated film of The Water Babies, the heroes bombard an evil shark's castle by dropping giant snowballs and icicles from the iceberg floating above it. Granted, this is in a film where sea creatures speak, swordfish wear feathered hats, and A Boy and His Dog breathe water.
- At the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones effortlessly hefts an apparently solid gold idol with one hand and drops a bag full of sand that was supposed to approximate the idol's weight onto the plinth, despite the bag being smaller than the idol. He even takes some sand out of the bag first, believing it to be too heavy. Of course, since the trap went off anyway, it seems Indy screwed up the estimation.
- There was nothing in the film to indicate that the idol was solid gold, and the fact that the sandbag sank the plinth indicates that Dr. Jones didn't remove enough sand. Based on this and Belloq's tossing the idol in his hands while he taunts Indy, it seems the idol is hollow. Presumably the idol's value wasn't in bullion, but in being an archaeological relic that was obviously difficult to recover.
- And in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a one-and-a-half-foot-long skull made of crystal - ie, stone - is handled as if it really were what it, of course, really is: a plastic prop. Again it is alleged the skull was supposed to be hollow and relatively thin, like the real thing.
- In In Old Caliente a payroll wagon loaded with gold coins kept getting held up by bandits on horseback, so the teamsters decided to melt down the gold into a heap of slag too large to move on horseback. When they were forced to retreat after being waylaid again, they lit the wagon on fire, rendering the gold immoveable before the authorities could arrive.
- In The Dark Knight, the bank robbers toss duffel bags stuffed full of stacked money into the bus like they were bags of balloons.
- The Long Ships: A blatant example shows up in this 60's Viking movie. In it, the MacGuffin is a solid gold bell large enough to be mistaken for the roof of a small chapel. It is easily towed behind the Vikings' boat. No raft, no pontoons, just a solid gold bell floating effortlessly behind an oar-driven ship. Calculating the displacement, however, it might actually be possible if the bell had the right measurements and thickness.
- The movie Night at the Museum has one of the characters (a ten year old boy) effortlessly carry and run with a solid gold tablet. He should not have been able to even pick it up. It's even worse in the sequel, with the characters waving the supposedly solid gold tablet around as if it were a clipboard.
- Iron Man Despite recovering from recent open-heart surgery, Tony Stark carries a lead-acid car battery like it's an empty cardboard box while in the terrorist camp. A car battery weighs about 30-60 pounds, however, so it's not impossible for the ripped Stark to be able to carry it, especially since his life literally depends on it. The density of the Iron Man suit itself seems to be really variable. At one point, Tony falls through concrete and destroys a car. Later, he gets thrown onto a glass roof.....with no effect.
- Notably though, that 'glass' roof was over a nuclear reactor, and from the distance his arm hung into it after the glass broke, it was probably somewhere around half a foot thick, so it could very well have been able to support more weight than a drywall and 2x4 roof. Plus he fell further onto the house than the glass, in an earlier (more than likely more dense steel instead of the titanium-gold alloy) armor. And breaking even just an inch of perfectly normal glass, such as that in a computer monitor, takes a lot more effort than punching through drywall. The only reason glass breaks so easily normally is because it is normally very thin, less than a quarter inch, like the lenses in his helmet that did crack when Obadiah crushed it.
- In Heat, the bank robbers have to run from the police while carrying big duffel bags that are absolutely packed with paper currency. A full duffle would be able to hold enough stacked and bundled bills to weigh between 150 and 200 pounds.
- In The Hidden Fortress, a point is made about how heavy gold is, and the characters are staggering under the weight. But based on the volumes of their packs, they should be carrying between two and three tons of the stuff each.
- In The Lord of the Rings Gollum falls into a river of lava and sinks in it as if it's barely thicker than water. It may be molten, but it's still rock. The director has said that they know that shot is all wrong in terms of science, but decided to just let the Rule of Cool reign.
- How ironic to apply the Rule of Cool to lava...
- Reality Is Unrealistic probably also applies since many viewers probably think liquid is liquid.
- Justified in the case of Frodo's bruised neck, as the One Ring becomes a heavier burden the longer he carries it. Literally, in the film's version.
- In Independence Day, the aliens' hemispherical mothership is described as being over 550 kilometers in diameter and "In terms of mass, it's a quarter the size of the moon." This would give it an average density about 20 times that of solid lead. The shots of its interior near the end of the movie show that it's mostly hollow, so that means the material it's built out of would have to be at least the density of white dwarf matter, if not neutron star matter (neutroniuum).
- Subverted in Secondhand Lions: Walter correctly figures out that Garth couldn't have taken out the guards with all that gold weighing him down, leading him to admit "Hub might have helped a little" and a cut to young Garth struggling to do anything.
- Averted in The Way of the Gun. When the kidnappers ask for $15 million in the classic "small, unmarked bills," Taye Diggs' character can be heard yelling into the phone "Do you know how much that will weigh? Try a couple hundred pounds!" In the director commentary, Christopher McQuarrie says this came about when Benicio Del Toro, during filming, actually asked how much $15 million would weigh. The money eventually comes in three large dufflebags which are generally shown to be quite heavy.
- An Irwin Allen movie, City Beneath the Sea, invoked the density of gold when the titular undersea colony used ingots as shielding to separate samples of an ultra-fissionable material and prevent it from achieving critical mass. And then an idiot thought, "Gold! I'll steal some!" without considering that a) he might cause a nuclear explosion, and b) the gold he wanted to steal was being irradiated. To be fair, the filmmaker didn't seem to consider the second point either.
- In Kelly's Heroes, The Caper involves a squad of Allied soldiers in World War II stealing $16 million in gold bars from a bank behind German lines. In the WW 2 era, the price of gold was fixed at $35 per troy ounce, so $16 million worth would weigh 15.67 U.S. short tons and have a volume of 26 cubic feet. It has been calculated that the writers grossly misrepresented the size and weight of that much gold given how much is visible in the movie and the means they use to carry it away.
- Boxes filled with bullion are also tossed around as if they were empty (which, of course, they are), when, given the size, they would weigh several hundred pounds.
- Water is soft, and according to many, many disaster movies, very light. Most of us use water every day, and we expect it to flow around anything it encounters that is denser than air. However, one liter (1 cubic decimeter) of water weighs one kilogram. This means that every cubic meter of water weighs 1,000 kg, or 2,204.6 lbs. This means that a 7-foot wall of water hits a building with 3.1 pounds per square inch, which is comparable to an explosion at close range. Now, scale this up to the 300-foot wave in The Day After Tomorrow or the 3500-foot wave in Deep Impact. Bomb shelters built to withstand megaton nuclear blasts might survive, but they would be very hard-pressed.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, the trio are in a vault at Gringotts where thousands of gold items are cursed to multiply whenever someone unauthorized tries to move them. Harry swims through a growing avalanche of them when he should actually be pretty quickly crushed, or should at least break a lot of bones and be rendered immobile. However, since gold has been said to be one of the few non-transfigurable materials, the duplicated objects in the vault can't turn into real gold, just something that looks like it.
- In the 2002 film Ghost Ship, two men can lug around crates of gold bricks that in real life would require very heavy machinery.
- In The Thief and the Cobbler, you can see the gold balls bounce around like rubber despite making metallic noises. Granted, the movie isn't realistic in the slightest bit, (they don't even lose momentum!) but you'd assume that gold balls wouldn't bounce that effortlessly. Heck, due to gold's relative softness, if they fell on a hard surface hard enough to bounce they'd deform or dent instead.
- Almost at the end of The Fog, when Father Malone picks up the gold cross, an object this size made of solid gold should have weighted al least 100 kilograms, probably more. To the credit of the actor, you can see him struggling to carry all this weight, but he shouldn't have been able to carry it alone. Specially problematic is when he lifts the cross with only his arms to hand it to the ghost, and keeps it in this position for a non-trivial amount of time.
- Battlefield Earth pretty much treats gold as weighing about as much as steel. It's hard to tell exactly, though, since the antagonists have an undefined level of super strength, and they're the ones most often seen handling gold.
- Played egregiously straight in Tower Heist, where a car made of solid gold is handled as if it weighed less than one made of steel, and does not seem to weigh down neither the scaffolding crane nor the elevator that are used to transport it.
- Plutonium in The Expendables 2 is contained in sealed containers that are easily carried by hand. Said containers are generally made of lead-lined steel and would weight in at twenty kilos, and would be a challenge to carry at best.
- Averted in Return From Witch Mountain. Tony has been put under mind control, and uses his telekinetic powers to steal a huge display of gold bars from the middle of a museum in broad daylight (after first causing mass pandemonium so nobody notices the theft). He effortlessly uses his powers to float the brick-sized bars of gold out of the building (no problem, it's magic), and to the man waiting with the getaway car. The man sees the brick floating slowly towards him and reaches out to pluck it from the air...and is immediately thrown back a couple of steps from the force of the impact. As he's righting himself, a second brick knocks the wind out of him, and a third knocks him sprawling to the ground. The remaining bricks float over his head and completely crush the getaway car into the concrete before Tony and the other two thieves come outside. A bar of gold typically weighs something in the range of about 13kg, and the car was flattened under probably at least a couple of tonnes of it.
- In Danger: Diabolik (best watched in the MST3K incarnation), the authorities melt 20 tons of gold into one huge bar to move it and entice the protagonist to try to steal it. That much gold would make a cube about 3.5 feet in each direction — about the size of a small refrigerator — but they make a bar nearly as long as a train car, several feet wide, and a few feet high — at least 300 tons worth, at a rough estimate.
- To top that off, the protagonist crashes the train into a bay and then is able to float the gold container away with nothing more than a dozen party-sized balloons.
- Invoked in Sharpe's Siege by Bernard Cornwell - Sharpe and his Confederates are accused of stealing the Imperial Treasury of France (they didn't). Captain Frederickson points out that the court is accusing them of removing four tons of gold, in small wooden boats, whilst under enemy fire. However, this defense doesn't work, because of the arrogant, aristocratic, incompetent, pretentious and snobbish Colonel Wigram presiding over the kangaroo court martial.
- In an Encyclopedia Brown story, the density of gold was used to prove that the supposed gold ingots were really just bricks spray-painted gold, as there is no way a kid could lift a brick-sized bar of gold with one hand. Although if you're dumb enough to confuse a spray-painted brick for real gold...
- In the Honor Harrington books it was initially played straight, despite David Weber getting quite a bit else right. Once fans started pointing out the absurdly low density (on par with cigar smoke) with the largest ships, the numbers were fixed.
- In Terry Pratchett's The Truth, Lord Vetinari is accused of trying to abscond with a large amount of money supposedly stolen from the city's treasury. Commander Vimes and William de Worde both realise the story can't be true after they calculate how much that amount of money would actually weigh.
- Pavel Bazhov's Malachite Casket happily averts this — it is a collection of miners' fairytales, after all. In one story the hero doesn't let himself to be deceived by the Fair Folk because he knows exactly how heavy the gold is, so he immediately sees that the teenage girl effortlessly holding a tray full of gold sand, ingots and lumps (that would weigh hundreds of kilos in Real Life) is a fake.
- In another story two boys who do not know this yet find come across magical gold which, if picked up, shouldn't be dropped, or all the gold will turn into rock. One boy grabs happily a large lump and suddenly finds it unbearably heavy, but is too afraid to drop it and just warns his friend. The latter picks up much smaller, but still heavy piece and realizes that his friend is way over-encumbered. After an argument, the second boy deliberately drops his lump, so all gold turns into rock and his friend won't hurt himself.
- Damien Lewis's Cobra Gold completely averts this, the problem of getting 17 tons of gold out of Beirut is central to the story in the first half, and finding a suitably heavy fake (which turned out to be solid tungsten coated with a thin layer of lead and gold) later on, is included as well. There are numerous mentions of how little space 17 tons of gold actually takes up, but most of their equipment can't handle the heavy load all at once.
- Averted in The Hobbit. Bilbo has helped the dwarfs reclaim the Lonely Mountain, and can theoretically claim 1/14th of Smaug's hoard. What does he take? One chest of gold coins and one chest of silver coins. That was all he conveniently transport home with a single pack animal.
- And of course the acquaintance and goodwill of many notable personages throughout the world, which is both fairly valuable and a lot easier to carry.
- And a mithril shirt which Gandalf later claims is worth more than everything else in the Shire combined. And a single gold ring...
- He could have picked valuable jewels and works of art instead, but it's highly unlikely that anyone in the Shire could have paid anything close to their real value. The book also averts Artistic License - Economics!
- Also note that his treasure is worth enough for him to live a lavish life till he's 111 (Some sixty years after acquiring the treasure) and leaves for Rivendell, at which point he still has enough money left for his heir to be filthy rich.
- Which just goes to show how incredibly rich the Dwarves of Erebor were and strengthens the Dwarves' motives for taking back the Lonely Mountain. A life of relative poverty when a treasure trove like that is lying around would be that much more unbearable.
- Averted in the Belgariad novels. When at a formal dinner in Mal Zeth, Belgarion is informed that he's in a position to make millions. Belgarion replies that he couldn't carry it: he knows how much that kind of money weighs. Polgara uses a similar argument when deciding to not empty out her account in the Sendarian royal treasury, taking only a minuscule percentage of the money for expenses (She also good reason to wish to be inconspicuous, which being visibly wealthy would interfere with).
- At one point, Belgarath has to ransom Polgara from her Nadrak master. He finds five small bars of gold all he can conveniently carry.
- Of course, both could move the weights if they wanted to; the real reason is probably that they know economics very well via long experience, are investing in the preservation of countries rather than account balances, and have no serious use for money anyway.
- Averted in the second Alcatraz Series book, when the titular hero plans to take gold bars with him. He stuffs some into his pockets, and lampshades this by commenting on how gold was actually very heavy. He later needs to toss some of the gold away to keep up with his allies.
- Averted in Cryptonomicon, where the protagonist mentions the weight of a gold brick as one reason why moving lots of gold bars by chopper or by Jeep across the deep jungle is impossible.
- Subverted in the James Bond short story Octopussy. The main character carries a briefcase containing gold to bypass customs. He takes amphetamines to be able to lift it easily enough to conceal its weight.
- Played straight in Goldfinger. The deconstruction mentioned above, in the Film category? Exclusive to the film; in the original novel, Auric Goldfinger really was just going to rob Fort Knox.
- In the first His Dark Materials book, Lyra escapes her captors by shaking out a bag of flour, running out of the room, and then waiting for the flour to explode. First, a large bag of flour would be too heavy for someone Lyra's size handle in that manner. Second, individual grains of flour are too heavy to drift in the air for that long a time.
- Averted in the first Artemis Fowl: Artemis' demands are one metric ton of gold, brought on an anti-gravity trolley so a five-foot-tall fairy and an eleven-year-old can push it around easily. Butler easily picks up an ingot, but he's almost seven feet tall and "has muscles like a Michelangelo statue".
- WE Johns fell into this trap in the novel Biggles and Co, when a recently-demobbed Biggles was hired by a major bank who've been hit by a string of ArmedBlags and think air-freighting their gold bullion might help. It doesn't; the gang responsible get hold of a small stunt-plane and a few machine guns and turn Sky Pirate... but Biggles put the real gold under a false floor in the aircraft's cargo hold, and the robbers drive off in triumphant possession of a large quantity of lead. Now, the author makes an effort at a Hand Wave by never quite specifying how much gold is being transported, stating only that the individual crates can be lifted comfortably by two men. But nevertheless, carrying a significant amount of gold and an equivalent number of crates full of lead would be an impressive feat indeed for the cutting edge of 1920s aerospace engineering!
- Averted in one other way in the same story, though. You might think the robbers would notice that the decoy crates were a bit lighter than they should be since lead is somewhat less dense than gold, but the explosives Biggles packed into each crate and wired to detonate when the lid was liftednote might've gone some way to making up the weight.
Live Action TV
- On 30 Rock, Kenneth has an idea for a game show in which contestants guess which suitcase being carried by models is filled with gold. The show was discontinued for being too easy, as one had only to look for the model who had trouble holding up the suitcase. This perhaps qualifies as both a lampshade and a straight example of this trope; even a small briefcase will have a volume of some 1,000 cubic inches, so one full of gold would weigh over 700 pounds. By comparison, the current deadlift record is just over 1,000 pounds, so you'd need to be a seriously ripped professional strongman to move that briefcase.
- At the other end of the scale, one episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has the team investigating a casino heist, supposedly of ten million dollars in cash. Grissom realizes the money would weigh around two hundred pounds — far too much for one man (seen in security footage) to practically carry. (It isn't stated, but it would also be unfeasibly bulky.)
- The 200 pounds (actually closer to 220) presumes it's all in $100 banknotes. A more normal mix of currency would about double this. A million US dollars in mixed currency fills a large suitcase, and one would probably have to pay over-weight charges to fly with it. $250,000 (in $100 bills) fits carefully into an Diabolical Mastermind-style aluminum attache case.
- Note, however, that having it all in $100s is not actually an unreasonable assumption for a casino heist, as the casino presumably sorts the cash, and a smart thief with limited resources would probably want to take his/her whole heist in the form of $100s if possible.
- In Merlin, a character uses alchemy to create a big lump of solid gold, which the characters lift and carry as easily as if it was polystyrene.
- A DVD commentary on Smallville pointed out this trope to highlight actors John Schnieder's acting abilities. In a scene where Johnathan Kent and Clark Kent are moving bales of hay, Johnathan is visibly having a hard time carrying the prop hay. The production staff had forgotten real hay bales do weigh a lot and Schnieder, who had had some farm experience, decided to portray this right. The actor playing Clark Kent had no such experience, but given who he is, it actually helped to make the two characters believable.
- Appeared in an episode of American Justice, discussing the case of a woman who had killed and dismembered and beheaded a man, the video of her statement has her comment on picking up the head and being surprised at how much it weighed. A detective who'd worked the case commented that's one of the reasons they were confident the confession was valid: unless you'd actually picked up a detached head, it's not the sort of thing someone would think about.
- Played with in Sharpe's Rifles. Sharpe is assigned to escort a party carrying a box that, to allay suspicion, they claim is full of old papers and documents. However, they lift the box around with ease invoking this trope. After Sharpe (and the audience) have accepted that, Harper conversationally points out that they are being hoodwinked because paper weighs a lot and whatever the box contains is very light. It is actually a flag that is a cultural treasure and propaganda rallying point.
- The Twilight Zone episode "The Rip Van Winkle Caper" plays this straight when some gangsters steal a truck full of gold and hide out in a cave where they hibernate for many years. When they wake up, they crash the truck trying to get back to town, and hike back to town instead, carrying backpacks full of dozens of gold ingots each. Later on, one man drops his canteen and the other offers him a drink for a bar of gold - he eventually ends up with both their shares of gold on his back, but doesn't even slow down.
- Averted, surprisingly, in an episode of Batman, a series not usually known for its scientific accuracy. In an episode in the third season, Egghead steals two pounds of radium in order to hatch a dinosaur egg (see previous comment about scientific accuracy). Egghead handles the box of radium as if it were very heavy—the radium only weighs two pounds, but the lead shielding adds a lot more.
- Played basically straight in another episode—also starring Egghead, coincidentally—he pilfers a giant egg (maybe three feet long) made of solid gold. No one short of the Incredible Hulk should be able to lift that thing, but Egghead picks it up and carries it out, though he's straining with the effort and can't lift it above his waist.
- Humorously subverted in season 4 of Breaking Bad: when the amount of money that Walt brings in proves too much to launder through the car wash, Skyler tries to hide several hundred thousand dollars in cash by sticking the bills in vacuum bags between little-used clothes and hanging the bags in the closet. The bags weigh so much they break the closet's hang rod, so she stores the vacuum bags (clothes and all) under the floorboards instead.
- Averted in The Adventures of Superman when a criminal, dressed as Superman, and his cohorts hijack an armored car carrying gold ingots. The robbers visibly struggle with the weight as they carry the ingots one by one from the armored car to the getaway vehicle.
- In White Collar a briefcase full of Krugerrands was quite easily passed around, while in reality that much gold would have weighed about a hundred pounds.
- Zig Zagged in an episode of Hogan's Heroes: the crew paints some gold bars red and some bricks yellow to swap them with each other, and they have to pretend that the regular bricks are really heavy when transporting them. But they make a set of stairs into Klink's office out of the gold bars which don't sink into the ground.
Mythology & Religion
- Detractors of the Mormon faith have often derided the idea of the Book of Mormon having been transalted from solid gold plates - particularly the idea that Joseph Smith says he had to run about a mile with the plates when he first recovered them. If the plates were solid gold they would have been very heavy, but if they were a copper-gold alloy (which is more likely) they may have weighed only around 60-70 lbs, a more reasonable figure for Smith, up to that point a manual laborer noted for his strength, to run with.
Table Top Games
- Classic BattleTech rated Humongous Mecha by their total mass. Which is fine as far as it goes, but the fluff assigned height and width values to several of the more iconic chassis that would leave them with a low enough density to float on water. (I'm looking at you Atlas)
- This gets hilarious when various 'Mechs are depicted with other units or infantry for scale. For instance, the relatively diminutive Wasp 'Mech is twenty tons, and explicitly stated as six meters tall in one book, while the aforementioned Atlas is described as 16 meters tall at 100 tons. If both were scaled down to similar heights, this ends up making the Wasp over 3.75 times as physically dense as the Atlas.
- It gets worse with DropShips. The Union class, for example, is basically a sphere eighty meter across. That is, about 270,000 cubic meters... 3,600 tons fully loaded.
- First Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons actually went too far in the opposite direction: All coins were assumed to weigh a whopping 1/10 of a pound each. This would make one gold piece bigger and heavier than almost any gold coin known to exist in real world history.
- Many games featuring weight limits for what a character can carry measure everything in the same unit. This can become a problem when the unit was designed with some common adventuring item (such as an arrow or dagger) weighing "1 unit," in which case items that should be much lighter (jewels, scrolls?) end up weighing the exact same amount as "base" items. A common workaround is to give such items a weight of zero, which can lead to massive hoarding if any of them are common and useful.
- In lieu of such possible hoarding, certain games may opt for body slots for items of negligible weight, meaning only a certain number of these items may be worn at a time.
- And since it keeps coming up, many of these games give you a strict limit to how much equipment you can carry, say, 100 lbs. And then lets you carry around, on your person, hundreds of thousands of units (typically coins) of gold which don't factor into encumbrance at all.
- Most fantasy CRPGs (such as Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate and Morrowind) track encumbrance on items, but money is weightless, so it's permissible to walk around with five million gold coins without a sweat. On the other hand, the RPGs some of them are based on usually averts this: in D&D 3.5, 50 coins weigh a pound. Whether you take this into account depends on your DM.
- The problem with various Role Playing Games, especially those based on on (A)D&D is the cost of not so rare items that sometimes reaches hundreds of thousands "gold pieces". This is actually magnitude of late medieval war contributions and budgets of duchies or smaller kingdoms.
- Asherons Call originally averted this but they changed it later.
- Albion averts this - money has a definite weight.
- And old dungeon crawler computer game called Castle of the Winds completely subverts this trope: not only does the money have weight but also mass, which means the more you try to lug around the slower you move and react when the ancient red dragon comes around the corner. Fortunately, there's a bank in the village you can deposit all your cash in for a letter of credit. This is actually correct (letters of credit were reinvented in the late Middle Ages - the Romans were using them over a thousand years before). However, it's still noteworthy that copper, silver, gold and platinum pieces weigh exactly the same, while being conveniently worth ten times the value of their predecessor.
- GURPS takes some time to discuss this. The writers point out that adventurers without superhuman strength wouldn't be able to carry off piles of gold. Gold coins are pretty heavy but in a fantasy setting gold, especially in the form of jewelry, would have had a better value/weight ratio than we think of today.
- Averted by Return To Krondor, where coinage had a definite weight. However, it wasn't very noticeable for the first few chapters of the game, where it would auto-exchange coins for high-value gems whenever you visited a shop. Towards the middle of the game, there's a chapter that involves traveling from Krondor to a small village, with no shops to stop in along the way to exchange coins. You will inevitably be leaving behind quite a large amount of treasure on monster corpses before the chapter is up.
- Betrayal at Krondor, the predecessor to Return, used weightless money. Then again, inventories were so small that requiring an inventory slot for money would've been outright painful.
- The info in the Pokédex in Pokémon frequently applies this to living things, giving weights that are often ridiculously heavy or light: Wailord is 14.5 m long, yet only weights about 400 kg.
- Apparently some Pokémon are less dense than hydrogen.
- The whale family are at least called "float whale Pokémon," as Wailord is likely based on a blimp and its original form, Wailmer, seems to be based on a beach ball. However, how they manage to dive is the real question.
- Also, sometimes in the anime, people are shown carrying Pokémon whose Pokédex entry gives them a considerable weight with more ease than the average parent holding a baby for extended periods.
- This is one of the reasons for the Fanon theory that the ten-year-old player character in the games is the one writing the Pokédex entries. He/she is just making up numbers that sound right to them and wildly over- and underestimating everything in the process.
- Tibia averts this, treating gold as a stackable (up to 100 per slot) object. 100 of them equal a platinum coin and 100 of those equals a Crystal coin.
- Maybe you automatically visit a bank during loading screens or something?
- The Elder Scrolls
- In Morrowind, everything has a rather realistic weight to it, however, your character can still lift an insane amount without being slowed down. Humorously, this means often times it's more practical to steal/loot cheaper stuff (like clothes) than gold, because its value:weight ratio is higher and thus you can walk away with more of it.
- In Daggerfall, when the shop had been bought out of its money, a nondescript letter of credit was issued. You could never be over-encumbered with too many 0.25lb pieces of paper placed directly into your inventory by shop-keeps. On the other hand, you could never pick up anything else until you returned under normal inventory weight limits.
- In Skyrim, all ingots of metal weigh the same (1 unit). This includes gold, which would obviously be much denser. And gold coins are not counted towards your weight limit, meaning you can potentially have tens of thousands of coins in your pockets with no effect on your carrying capacity.
- Many games with a storage system will often overlook that the amount of items and weight of some of them will either not fit in the specified container used, or would end up being so weighty and bulky the character couldn't move around as effectively as they are shown to. Of note, Metal Gear Solid 3 comes to mind with its backpack inventory system, fitting an RPG, two rifles, and an assortment of pistol sized weapons, along with medical supplies, rations, and any critter you caught, while not weighing Big Boss down. They only become weighty when equipped on his person.
- Also is Resident Evil 4, with the Attache case. Never mind an RPG weighs a lot, or that a fully loaded case would probably be too heavy to lift. And how does the Merchant hide that in his coat?
- Don't forget Link in...well, every Zelda game ever. But especially The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, where he can swing his giant hammer almost as well as his sword, and the Iron Boots only make him sink if he's wearing them — not while he has them stored inside his other boots (or wherever it is that they go).
- In The Legend of Zelda Link carries around with him, on top of the usual armour of shield, sword, bombs, arrows, etc, an entire raft and a ladder big enough to bridge small streams and gaps with.
- EverQuest assigned weight to coins, as well as having money come in different denominations (copper, silver, gold and platinum). Along with the way fall damage was calculated, it meant it was entirely possible to commit unintentional suicide by grabbing a couple thousand platinum from the bank - and abruptly taking 20k damage from the "drop" when you stepped off the threshold of the bank's front door.
- Adom also assigns weight to gold pieces. It's quite possible to get crushed under the weight the gold you are carrying if your magic fails you. With normal in-game methods you can accumulate hundreds of kilos of gold. Abusing a bug you can get hundred thousand kilos.
- In Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Nate realizes the golden statue they're looking for was brought to the island when he looks at some old freight logs and notices something weighing "about 500 pounds". A cube of gold that weighed 500 pounds would have about 8.94 inches (22.7 cm) to a side. The statue they find looks like it should weight several tons at least.
- But then, the statue isn't solid.
- Not sure if it's a subversion or what, but in Mafia II, one level has you giving the Chinese Mafia money in exchange for heroin. One of the head guy's bodyguards hefts the briefcase then tips it out, stating the denomination of the bills, their weight and how much that weight equals in money.
- In the Fallout 3 expansion The Pitt you are sent on a quest to collect 100 ingots. If you collect them all in one go, then they stack and only weigh as much as the first ingot, but if you collect some, turn them in and then go back, then they still stack but their weight quickly adds up, so both playing the trope straight and averting it at the same time.
- The first expansion for Fallout: New Vegas, Dead Money, subverts this at the end when the player finds a vault with of 37 gold bars. Each bar is worth 10,439 caps, a ridiculously large amount, but each bar also weighs 35 pounds. If a player wanted to take all the bars, a total of 382,913 caps (enough money that he/she would basically never need the money acquired from the main missions to complete the game), he/she would be carrying 1,295 pounds. The highest possible weight any player can carry without cheating is 300 pounds, so a player could only carry 8 of the bars without being over-encumbered after dropping all of his/her equipment.
- To make this all sillier, no vendor in the game ever has more than 8,000 caps. It's impossible to sell even a single bar for its total value. Some have speculated that this is meant to tie into a theme of letting greed go. (The natural progression is to take out some in trade, but even then it is difficult to find a vendor with that much to spare.)
- New Vegas also features a partial aversion to this with "Hardcore Mode" - where (among other things) ammo has weight. At first, it doesn't make much of a difference when individual bullets weigh 1/15 to 1/10 of a pound - but when players start acquiring automatic weapons that eat bullets like candy, or come across rocket launchers whose individual rockets weigh two pounds apiece, it really starts to cut down on what you can carry compared to normal mode. (Though even in hardcore, there are many completely weightless items - including gunpowder and shell casings.)
- Lampshaded in the Umineko no Naku Koro ni fan novel "Witches and Woodlands." Those who wager their weight in gold in Mammon's trial and lose are turned into gold statues to pay the debt. George protests that the density of gold means that the statues would weigh more than the living victims. Beatrice hastily handwaves it by saying that the statues are hollow before muttering, "Damn, I hate science! Always messing with my magic."
- In The Batman, the Joker once stole Bane's muscle inflation device, and used it to become super-strong and grow at least fifteen feet tall. He later uses this Super Strength to lift a solid gold globe, but the thing's shape isn't changed by doing this. Weight aside, gold is fairly soft; trying to lift a huge globe of solid gold (or worse a hollow sphere of gold) would result in a Joker-shaped dent on the under side.
- In fact, large objects impossibly retaining their structure when lifted by a human with one spot is very common when it comes to the portrayal of Super Strength, so much that part of the common "Tactile Telekinesis" Handwave is that their Required Secondary Powers are holding the object together.
- Although only the new Superboy (Kon-El/Connor) actually has it on his power list. He would mention he was using it. All. The. Time.
- The episode of Batman: The Animated Series that debuted Scarface has a scene where his men are stealing a load of platinum. They unload the ingots one at a time and it's shown that of the three, only Rhino, who's twice the size of Batman, can lift an ingot with no problem. Batman is captured in the ensuing fight when Rhino tips what should be several tons of the stuff over. Surprisingly, Batman is only knocked out for a few hours with no noticeable injuries.
- In The Stinger at the end of Finding Nemo, the water in the fish bags floats above the water in the ocean.
- Which is not this trope. Ocean water is generally significantly more dense than aquarium water. Just because it is all 'water' doesn't mean it has the same density.
- Of course, if the water the fish are in is significantly less dense than real seawater, then the fish are luck their bags didn't break: the sudden osmotic pressure shift would probably kill them.
- Parodied; starship fuel (dark matter) is so dense that "a single pound of it weighs ten thousand pounds." In one case, Fry refers to a ball of this fuel, which has previously been shown on rare occasions to be lift-able by a human, as "weighing as much as a thousand suns." The episode "The Game" throws the dark matter's weight out the window by having the characters pushing wheelbarrows filled with it. On the Sun.
- A lampshade gets hung on this when Fry and Leela are going to have a fiddle contest with the Robot Devil where the prizes are Bender's soul and a solid gold fiddle. When Fry (of all people) asks "Wouldn't a solid gold fiddle weigh hundreds of pounds and sound crummy?" The Robot Devil admits that it's mostly for show. Nevertheless, Leela picks the fiddle up and attempts to play it moments later, and it seems to be an ordinary fiddle.
- There was also an episode where they go to a planet where the gravity is extremely heavy (as the professor says "You'd be crushed by the weight of your own hair"). Pillows weigh hundreds of pounds and raindrops can knock someone down. The crew tried lifting all the pillows at once and the dolly they were using fell apart almost instantly.
- Averted in an episode of Inspector Gadget, Penny realizes that a stack of gold bricks is fake because she can lift them too easily.
- Lilo & Stitch: Stitch is too dense to be able to swim, yet David and even five-year-old Lilo are able to pick him up with no more effort than they might expend lifting a corgi. Oddly not as unrealistic as it looks, since the basset hound is a real-life example of a dog too dense to swim more than a very short distance. While a strong swimmer like David should be able to rescue him; Lilo's ability to carry him is a little more far-fetched (bassets weigh 35 to 50 pounds, nearly as much as Lilo herself should weigh).
- One episode of Mummies Alive! featured the ghosts of Gold Rush prospectors as villains, and they went around stealing every bit of gold they could find. Including Big Guy Armon's golden arm. Now, being the Big Guy it's not such a strain that he can make use of an arm made of gold, but their twelve-year-old friend Presley can lift it as easily as if it was made of cardboard.
- In Who's who however when Rath and Armon have their minds switched, Rath is unable to roperly use Armon's golden arm as even with Armon's muscles and size, he isn't used to carrying such a large weight.
- They carry stuff made out of solid gold rather effortlessly in The Mysterious Cities of Gold.
- Averted in Pinky and the Brain. One of their first capers was to break into Fort Knox and steal all the nation's gold. Unfortunately, the two couldn't pick up even one brick.
- Puss in Boots averts this in the scene where the heroes discover the golden eggs—they're too heavy for any of them to lift a single one, so they take the goose that laid them instead. It's played straight in every other scene with gold, where dozens of those same eggs are carried around in a single cart and casually thrown around, as well as Puss-in-Boots's flashback where Humpty is able to move around two huge bags of gold.
- In The Simpsons episode "The Seemingly Never-Ending Story", Marge effortlessly lifts a huge bag of gold coins with one hand. In reality, she would barely be able to use it.
- Partially averted in The Spectacular Spider-Man. The Enforcers try to escape a crime scene with as much gold as they can, but only the super-strong Ox can carry more than one bar. Earlier in the episode, however, an enormous stack of gold bars comes down on Spider-Man, and he's only briefly hindered. Even as tough as Spidey is, that much weight would have flattened nearly anything.
- Spongebob Squarepants is never terribly consistent about whether the characters are in a water-like medium or an air-like medium.
- Density is a plot point in the ThunderCats episode "All That Glitters", with the fuel source Thundrillium being stated to be denser than gold. Granted, the ThunderCats are all pretty strong (even those whose skills don't have anything to do with power still have a ridiculous amount of musculature for someone never shown pumping iron), but for something to be that dense and still of use as anything but a permanent doorstop...
- Scrooge McDuck can dive into the gold and swim in it. However, when the triplets try to do that, they get hurt and wonder how does he do that. Maybe the gold likes him, too, and just wouldn't hurt him?
- The same thing happens to the Beagle Boys in one of the comics, and to Peter Griffin in one of their cutaways.
- At some old gold mines in Canada, one gag played on new miners (and visitors) was to tell them that if they could lift a brick of gold off the table with one hand gripping it from the top, they could have it. The joke worked because of the density (something about the size of an ordinary brick weighs about thirty kilograms), shape of the brick, and smoothness of the metal, making it impossible to get a grip strong enough to lift it.
- This was demonstrated in that exact fashion on an episode of the Canadian documentary series Ed's Up, which stars Barenaked Ladies' Ed Robertson. While he was working at a facility which produces gold bricks, the employees told him if he could pick up the gold brick (the size of an ordinary brick) and carry it out without assistance, it was his to keep. The best he could was turn it on its side, after a great deal of effort. There was a slight lip on the brick after it had been stamped on the top, which he thought might help, but it was of no avail.
- Often, actors who handle fake human limbs without realizing that actual body parts are much heavier than you'd think they are. We tend to forget that because legs and arms seem to move around so easily. Of course, so do cars. Since it's something most people wouldn't really know about, it can be excused as a case of Reality Is Unrealistic. The weight of human body parts can be roughly calculated by the "rule of nines." The head is 9%, the torso is 18%, the abdomen is 18%, each arm is 9%, each leg is 18% (with 1% left over). So, if you weigh 80 kg (175 lbs), each of your arms is about 7 kg (15 lbs), and each of your legs is about 15 kg (30 lbs), give or take.
- There is a story about an 18th century nobleman trying to pick up a platinum ingot about 10 cm across. He then complained gluing the metal to the table wasn't funny.
- The specific gravity of gold is nineteen. That means it has nineteen times the density of water. Pick up a gallon jug of water and note how heavy it feels. If it was filled with gold it would weigh nineteen times as much.
- Anyone who ever found some iron pyrite, picked it up easily, and still thought it was gold instead of fool's gold has fallen victim to this trope.