Hollywood Density

"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 (though, interestingly, if the paper is in another form, this doesn't seem to apply as much, as characters will frequently acknowledge that stacks of books or newspapers are heavy.)

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 70% more dense than lead. To say nothing of the fact that gold's status as a dense substance is rather well known; anyone who's ever worn a gold ring can tell that it's heavier than a silver one.

Sometimes an Acceptable Break from Reality, sometimes not. It helps to be in a fantasy setting, and consistency is key. 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, because having a weight penalty for your character's money would detract from the fun of the game.) 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.
  • Gundam is a chaotic offender, using various types of fantastic metals to build the mechas.
  • Averted for gold in Naruto when the Fourth Kazekage has the power to control gold, because 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.
    • In that same arc, however, Luffy got his hand stuck in a large ball of gold, its heaviness serving to anchor him where he is.
  • 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: When They Cry 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
  • In The Fuma Conspiracy, Fujiko successfully smuggles a large shingle made of gold under her jacket and moves very quickly and agilely despite the presumed large weight.
  • In Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko!, Carol gives Tomo three gold bars as a birthday present. They're smaller than the usual house brick-sized bars you see in fiction (small enough that she can carry all three bundled in a handkerchief like a bento box), but she's still a fairly ordinary high schooler and she still carries the bundle in one hand. Amusingly, the weight issue is brought up when Carol mistakes Tomo's shock for disappointment and explains that she went with smaller bars because bigger ones would weigh too much.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 weigh 3826 kg. At other times it has been referred to as "omnium", a fictional metal that has no specified properties other than being really strong. (A few comics have suggested that Colossus is all or partly hollow in metal form, but that just raises new questions.)
  • The titular superhero of The Vision has the power to "control his density". This power is used often to become intangible, super-hard, and heavy. Changing density doesn't affect his volume, either. Presumably, the mass needed to increase or decrease his density comes/goes to another dimension; this is the standard handwave for all Shapeshifter Baggage and similar issues in the Marvel Universe.
  • Mass Master from Power Pack has the power to change his density, which also changes his volume. His mass remains the same. Becoming denser shrinks the Mass Master, and becoming less dense makes him a cloud larger than his original body.
  • 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. They also have scenes of Phantom Lady holding him in her hand, or on her shoulder. So the issue of his mass is ignored during those instances.
  • 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 (made of steel, concrete, glass, etc) into solid gold (slightly denser than steel, much denser than the rest); it immediately collapses in on itself from the weight.
  • Averted in a scene in Spirou and Fantasio: The Pirates of Silence. A massive robbery is taking place in a secluded, off-the-radar city exclusively for VIP retreats. One robber is trying to lift a stack of gold bars, and ended up dropping most of them, not knowing how much gold weighs.
  • Subverted with one Lampshade Hanging in Diabolik: gold and other metals weigh as they should (in fact in one occasion a weight Diabolik used to break a bulletproof glass was a steel sphere filled with mercury), with an early story having a foundry worker surprised by the small size of the one-tonne gold ingots he was making and his co-worker pointing out that gold weighs a lot.
  • Little Lotta would often have Lotta's weight fluctuate depending on Rule of Funny. According to one cover gag, a camel is unable to support her weight, but full-grown camels can carry between 880 and 990 lbs, and she looks like she could be no heavier than 300 lbs.

  • 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.
  • In this DirectTV commercial, the women are about 10 times stronger than the Russian guy, based on their ability to lift the gold.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Subverted in In the Light of Day: A Frozen Epic when Anna accidentally bumps into a sealed coffer (a large jar completely full of gold coins) and nearly knocks it over. Afterwards she notes that if it's really full of gold, she shouldn't have been able to budge it at all, especially not from bumping into it.

    Films — Animated 
  • 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 and low strength, if they fell on a hard surface hard enough to bounce they'd deform or dent instead.
  • In The Stinger at the end of Finding Nemo, the water in the fish bags floats completely above the water in the ocean despite the bags coming from a seawater aquarium and being at the surface of the ocean (where the water is least dense).
  • Lilo & Stitch: Stitch is too dense to be able to swim, yet David and 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).
  • 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 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 X breathe water. But still, ice floats because it is less dense than liquid water.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Hellboy, Ilsa carries a briefcase full of Nazi Gold coins and even holds it out with one hand, but it should weigh hundreds of pounds.
  • In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, [Big Mama brings in Big Daddy's improbably huge birthday cake and carries it around effortlessly for the entire scene without setting it down. No matter how she tips and jostles, she never seems concerned with it sliding off the platter. (On the other hand, it's one of the rare instances of the Carrying a Cake trope that ends without incident.)
  • The Italian Job (1969) features several Mini Coopers that are packed full with gold bars, but it doesn't affect their manoeuvrability or speed as they zip around Italy. 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 Italian Job (2003) packs the Coopers with gold, and it uses a Hand Wave by stating that they've beefed up the shocks to accommodate the extra weight, though this is unlikely to be sufficient in real life. This film also averts the trope by using it as a plot point to assist the robbers in identifying 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 just ignoring the issue. The trucks 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 Mummy (1999) has the Book of the Dead made of solid gold, yet characters are carrying it around as easily as a normal book that size. In the same film, there are horses loaded with sacks full of gold artifacts, but the beasts don't seem perturbed by the weight. But when a duffel bag full of guns and ammo is thrown into a river, it floats.
    • The Mummy Returns:
      • There's a bracelet of the same material. Which is carried by a child most of the picture. Early in the film, when lugging around the bracelet in a box, he comments it weighs a lot.
      • Jonathan lifts the Diamond of Ahm Shere, probably about a cubic foot in volume. That's a big rock, and Jonathan's no muscle man, but it's not completely impossible. Just unlikely.
  • 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.
  • The 1950s sci-fi film Atomic Submarine features the title boat dodging ice falling off the bottom of the Arctic icecap. Ice floats because it is less dense than liquid water.
  • Ice sinks in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Ice floats because it is less dense than liquid water.
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra features an underwater ice-fall in the finale, though the ice was filled with metal, so possibly more likely. Ice floats because it is less dense than liquid water.
  • 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. Ice floats because it is less dense than liquid water.
  • 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 immovable before the authorities could arrive. (In reality, the melting point of gold is 1,948 degrees Fahrenheit, so the teamsters never had the slightest chance of melting the coins unless they had thought to bring a blacksmith's forge with them.)
  • 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 60s 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, so while it's not impossible for the muscular Stark to be able to carry it, it would require more visible effort and affect his balance.
  • 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, if the gold bars are intended to contain 10 ryo (1 ryo = 16.5g) of gold each, then the 200 bars total would weigh somewhere between 70 and 90 pounds, depending on the purity of the bars, which is a plausible amount for two grown men to be able to carry with some difficulty. Once the party loses the horse and cart, the peasants carrying the gold are shown 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, as opposed to forty-odd pounds.
  • 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. Not to mention that letting the audience see Gollum being incinerated and cooked on top of the lava would probably be too gruesome for the film. Reality Is Unrealistic probably also applies since many viewers probably think liquid is liquid.
  • 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. Not a complete aversion, as $15 million would still weigh more and take up far more space than three duffel bags could handle, but at least it wasn't the classic Briefcase Full of Money.
  • 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 WW2 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 2, 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.
  • 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.
  • National Treasure 2: The Book of Secrets: In the City of Gold, Riley handles a gold brick that should weigh about 150 pounds, as if it were some kind of lightweight prop.
  • 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.
  • A solid gold object the size of the idol at the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark would weigh at least fifty pounds, far more than Indy's small bag of sand. When Indy looks at it, he actually removes sand from the bag to approximate its weight and later events even suggest that he guessed too low. While it's never explicitly stated that the idol is solid gold even a hollow gold object that size would be much too heavy to be toted around as easily as it is.
  • In Deadpool the hero fills a duffel bag with a great many guns (mostly long arms) and what is stated to be 3000 rounds of ammunition. Unless composed entirely of puny .22's, the ammo alone would weigh closed to 100 pounds with the weapons themselves adding an equal amount. While this is nothing a Super Strength character couldn't handle, the bag he puts it all in sits high up on his back as if it were filled with clothes.
  • In Ocean's Eleven, eleven men steal $160 million in cash from a casino. Assuming it's all in C-notes to minimize the number of bills, that much money would weigh roughly a ton and a half. Unless the team was all into heavy-duty bodybuilding, there's no way they could have moved that much weight in one trip as was shown in the finale. Despite all the careful planning involved in the heist, the question of how to lift 300 pound duffel bags and carry them out of the casino without giving away that the bags are a lot heavier coming out than going in isn't mentioned.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • James Bond
    • Subverted in the 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. He made plans to account for the weight when getting the gold out of town (A powerful train), but forgot the intermediate steps (Getting the gold out of the vault and into the train).
  • 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 novel The Delta Decision. A member of a terrorist group that has just hijacked a jetliner demands a payment of one million gold Krugerrands (a coin made of one ounce of gold). A member of the negotiating team, who is also an operative in an elite anti-terrorist military unit, tells the terrorist that one million gold Krugerrands is going to weigh over 30 tons, and how do they intend to transport it? The shocked reaction of the terrorist lets everyone know that the terrorists didn't think of everything, which makes it less surprising when all of the terrorists are killed.
  • 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.
  • By The Great Horn Spoon uses this twice. The first when the Battle Butler knocks out a huge dude with a single punch. He's regarded as a Memetic Badass from that point onwards, due to the gold dust in his gloves giving it a lot of extra weight. The second when the same man, having struck it rich, falls overboard, and has to lose his clothing (which contained a large amount of his acquired gold) to avoid drowning.
  • An argument about whether or not anchor ice exists kicks off the plot of Jack London's short story The Men of Forty Mile. The solution? A duel to the death. Ultimately, they don't go through with it after a third party intervenes.
  • Averted in The Shadow Campaigns novels with the collection of magical lore known as The Thousand Names. The names are engraved on a set of twelve steel plates which are eight feet high and approximately six feet wide (An explicit width is not given, but Raesinia notes that her arms aren't long enough to allow her to touch both sides at the same time). If the plates are an inch thick, they'd weigh about one ton each. Every time the question of moving them is brought up, the fact that their weight makes this a non-trivial exercise is brought up as well. In the fourth book it's even mentioned that the reason why the Names were engraved on enormous steel plates in the first place was to make them harder to steal.

    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 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 Jonathan Kent and Clark Kent are moving bales of hay, Jonathan 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 (1959) 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.
  • Subverted twice in Breaking Bad:
    • In season 3, when Hank was helping Walt move out of his house, Walt sees his Duffel Bag O' Cash™ sitting on the driveway and moves to grab it before Hank does, whom insists on grabbing it anyway. "Jesus, what've you got in there, cinder blocks?", to which Walt replies with a straight face "Half million in cash." Hank laughs it off as a joke. Subverted even further by the bag making an appropriately loud thud when it lands in Hank's trunk.
    • In season 4, 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.
  • Averted in an episode of Square One TV 's Mathnet, where an angry judge imprisons people he believes were falsely found not guilty, even though they proved their innocence with math. One man says that the amount of gold he supposedly stole would have been impossible for him to carry.
  • The trope appears at the end of a Sesame Street Muppet and Kid Moment, in which Ernie and Bert teach Shola Lynch about the relative sizes of balls. After showing her a basketball and two smaller balls, Ernie shows Shola a ball bearing (she calls it a "baby ball"). Ernie then throws the ball bearing to Bert, but it flies off screen, followed by the sound of breaking glass.
  • In the series finale of Person of Interest, Reese clubs an opponent unconscious with a gold brick. Gold bricks such as those found in a major gold repository weigh about 25 pounds, give or take, so hitting somebody with one would stand a good chance of knocking them out. However, the same factor means that most people would not be able to grip, lift and swing said brick one-handed. At least not while reaching behind ones-self while bent over backwards.
  • One episode of NCIS had the villain acquiring $108,000 in one dollar bills, treating them with a contact poison, and then distributing them (Some dropped, some left in charity donation containers, some spent...) all over town as an act of terrorism. The money is shown to be coming out of a duffel bag, which would be accurate for the volume needed, but at no point does it look like the bag weighs about as much as the person carrying it (108,000 bills would weigh roughly 200 pounds).

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Detractors of the Mormon faith have often derided the idea of the Book of Mormon having been translated 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 pounds, 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 is twenty tons and explicitly stated as six meters tall in one book, while the aforementioned Atlas is described as sixteen meters tall and one hundred tons. If both were scaled to similar heights, the Wasp would be over 3.75 times denser than the Atlas.
    • It gets worse with DropShips. The Union class, for example, is basically a sphere eighty meters across. That is, about 270,000 cubic meters... 3,600 tons fully loaded.
  • First Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 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.
    • In early versions of D&D, the logistics of getting any treasure found back out of the dungeon were very much intended — if not always spelled out as such — to be part of the challenge. Downplayed in later editions.
  • Although Pathfinder acknowledges that gold is ill-suited to adventuring gear, Ultimate Equipment states that weapons and armor made of solid gold weigh 50% more than normal. That number would more accurately be 2.4 times heavier.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
    • Asheron's 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.
    • NetHack, based on early D&D rules, has gold coins as the main currency (they're called "Zorkmids", but the game makes it clear they are made of gold), and defines 100 gold coins as 1 unit of "weight". This still makes them a great deal lighter than most other items (scrolls of parchment are 5 units of weight).
  • 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 treats 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.
  • 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 0.25 kg 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. For your own needs (coins had weight), the banking system allowed you to take out such letters of credit for an administrative charge — losing 1000 gold may feel harsh, but may well be worth having a piece of paper worth 100000 gold and weighing 0.25 kg rather than the equivalent in actual gold pieces (weighing 250 kg) — although a few services, such as taverns, only accepted actual coin.
    • 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.
      • The crafting system leads to some amusing math as well. For example, a 3-pound bear pelt yields 4 pounds of leather.
  • 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: Snake Eater 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.
    • In Minecraft, the player can carry nearly 45,000 metric tons, and a 12-meter cube can be broken down and placed into a <1 m chest.
    • 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 I 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 10 steel ingots out of a possible 100. Each steel ingot weighs 1 pound. If you collect them all before turning in the quest, their weight won't count against your carry limit. If you collect some, complete the quest, and then go back for the rest, the remaining ingots will each weigh their full amount.
  • The first expansion for Fallout: New Vegas, Dead Money, subverts this at the end when the player finds a vault with 37 gold bars. Each bar is worth 10,439 caps, a ridiculously large amount, but each bar also weighs 35 pounds. You're under a strict time limit to escape with whatever you can carry, and if you carry more than your encumbrance limit, you move far too slowly to make it out. If a player wanted to take all the bars—a total of 382,913 caps, enough that you'd basically never need money again—s/he would be carrying 1,295 pounds. The highest possible carry weight a player could have (i.e. max Strength and various Perks) is 375 pounds, so a player could only carry 10 of the bars at most without being over-encumbered, and they'd have to drop everything they were already carrying.
    • 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.) This is made more annoying by many junk items used for crafting being exactly 1 pound, an apparent default value, even if it makes no sense. Somehow a scalpel, forceps, and a single tin can all weigh a whole pound each.
    • Both Fallout 3 and New Vegas have an Item Crafting component called a fission battery. They're the size and shape of 9-volt batteries, yet weigh 10 pounds in Fallout 3 and 6 pounds in New Vegas. A portable fission battery would be denser than a regular battery, since nuclear fuel and shielding are both heavy, but a 10 pound object that size would be ten times the density of pure uranium.
  • Lampshaded in the Umineko: When They Cry 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."
  • Pay Day 2 averts this when the criminals abscond with their take, as their speed depends on what they're carrying. Carrying a rack of jewelry will barely slow a thief down, but carrying a duffel bag full of money keeps theives from being able to jump or run. Carrying a bag of gold ingots will slow a thief to a crawl.
    • This is played straight, however, when characters can throw each bag effortlessly, making it faster to constantly throw a bag of gold forward then pick it up as opposed to simply carrying it. (The developers noticed this as well, and with tongue-in-cheek referred to their game as a "bag throwing simulator.")
  • The MechWarrior series, based on BattleTech, likewise rates its Humongous Mecha by metric tonnage. The issue of silly tonnages and densities is exacerbated by the mechs being largely to-scale with each other and the environment unlike the often out-of-scale sourcebook art from Battletech. The Atlas in Mechwarrior 4 is taller than a 6 story building and its feet are as large as a small tank, but it's only 100 tons, twice the weight of a M1 Abrams. Later games are slightly better in this regard. Amusingly, in Mechwarrior Living Legends, mechs will spontaneously become buoyant if they are ragdolled from leg damage while underwater; just about every mech would naturally be about as dense as Styrofoam or plywood.
  • At one point in Day of the Tentacle, Bernard gets $876,600 in quarters from a vending machine. That much change would weigh just under 20 tons. And Bernard lacks sufficient upper-body strength to pick up a bowling ball.
  • Dwarf Fortress scrupulously averts this, and also tries to account for other material properties like malleability and melting point. This has some interesting implications. Gold, for example, is realistically dense, thus the extra-valuable solid gold statue that your legendary blacksmith just made will be extremely heavy and slow to haul into place. Gold's softness is acknowledged by excluding it from the class of metals that can be used for weapons and armor. Pure silver, on the other hand, is about half the density of gold, but still one third denser than steel. It is eligible to make weapons, but being also rather soft, the game gives silver a low shear strength: relatively ineffective as a sword. (Even against were-beasts.) But for blunt weapons? With its high density, silver takes the gold.
  • Averted in StreetPass Mii Plaza's Market Crashers game—not only are all transactions digital (though you do get a money hoard), it's directly brought up in the description for the Golden Model Castle Set:
    "It's only one foot tall, but it weighs over 60 pounds! What better way to show off your wealth?"

  • These two pages of What's New? with Phil and Dixie feature exercises for Dungeons & Dragons players to get a feel of what they put their characters through without a second thought. Number 1 is acquiring treasure, demonstrated with bowling balls.
    • The strips however fall into the trap of assuming plate armour and swords are too heavy for an average person to use easily. In reality, medieval knights' plate armour was light enough to cartwheel and swim in, and a large sword weighed about 2 pounds.
  • Played With in Schlock Mercenary: Elf carrying three large cylinders evidently made of solid gold is not a problem, as she is in strength-enhancing Power Armor. However, she declines Kevyn's suggestion of leaning them against a bulkhead:
    Elf: They weigh about a half ton each. I'm not leaning them against anything.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • "Read My Lips" has a scene where Scarface and 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 "Deep Freeze", Mr. Freeze zaps Grant Walker with his Freeze Ray and traps him in ice. Walker falls into the ocean and sinks like a stone, even though ice floats.
  • Averted in an episode of Cyberchase. Hacker kidnaps the King of Happily Ever After and will only return him for a ransom of 500 golden eggs. As they continue to collect more and more eggs, Eniz comments that she forget how heavy gold actually is. They are forced to ask a giant to help move the gold around after a while.
  • Futurama
    • 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.
  • 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 properly 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.
  • Subverted in Pinky and the Brain: Their very first caper was to break into Fort Knox and steal all the nation's gold. The two broke in, then realized they couldn't pick up even one brick.
  • 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.
  • Averted and played straight 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.
  • DuckTales:
    • 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?
      • Comics from Don Rosa lampshade this: in The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Scrooge himself was extremely surprised when a bedouin tried to murder him by throwing him in a train wagon filled with cash and he managed to swim in it, and when Donald first saw him diving in his money he believed he was killing himself until he started swimming (the nephews and him could barely believe their own eyes).
    • The same thing happens to the Beagle Boys in one of the comics, and to Peter Griffin in one of their cutaways.
  • The mecha tanks in The Legend of Korra are made of pure platinum so they won't be affected by metalbenders. Platinum is even denser than gold and is almost as soft; they shouldn't be able to stand under their own weight.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: In "Bullies", Valmont uses the dragon talisman, which has the power of combustion, to rob Fort Knox. Jackie follows him there, and along with Uncle, each easily hold individual gold bricks. Uncles uses one to block a Dark Hand mook's punch ("Respect your elders!"), and Jackie tosses gold bricks overboard in a mocking attempt to push Valmont's Berserk Button.
  • Subverted in The Venture Bros. episode "Spanakopita!" While Dr. Venture is ranting to his friends about how his vacation is being ruined by a rival cheating at the "Spanakopita games", he paces the room brandishing a rock the size of his torso.
    Billy: All right, just stop waving that huge rock at me!
    Pete: How are you even doing that?
    Dr. Venture: It's pumicenote . For the pumice-carving competition.

    Real Life 
  • 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 head is perhaps 7.1-8.8% a person's whole mass, each arm is 4.3-6.8%, and each leg is 12.1-19.5%. (More figures available here.)
  • 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 feelsnote . 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.note 
  • One classic trick used in lectures on muscle physiology is to fill two identical small containers, one with lightweight material and the other with lead. The lightweight container is set on display, and a student volunteer called up to lift it one-handed. After a few demonstrations of arm movements with the lighter container, the instructor switches it out for the heavy one behind the volunteer's back. When the volunteer is asked to lift it again, it either slips through their grasp or sets them off-balance, because the weight is suddenly much heavier and their muscles' grip and/or stance were calibrated for the lighter burden.