Testing A Possible Origin To Alchemy: The Golden Rain Experiment


I've had this idea for a few years that the Golden Rain experiment (a double displacement reaction between potassium iodide and lead nitrate) might be one of the early inspirations for alchemy and the idea that lead might be transformed into gold. In this video I attempt to make all of the compounds required for this reaction from ingredients that would have been accessible in ancient history.

One of the key ingredients, lead nitrate, would not have been available at the time according to my research (please leave a comment below if you have information showing otherwise), so instead I attempt to use lead acetate which I was able to make via acetic acid in vinegar. I believe the most likely ancient source of an iodine component is the ash from burnt seaweed. While I myself was only able to extract a small amount of iodine from ground kelp (you will see in this video that I supplement my yield with commercially made potassium iodide) you can see a more successful extraction on the channel Cody's Lab to prove a larger quantity is possible: https://youtu.be/jmWB1Sl2uzE

This video was unscripted and filmed as I made my very first attempt at testing this idea. I take a while to reach the final result but I hope you enjoy watching the process! I really want to thank my Patreon supporters for helping me to keep this channel going, especially my top patrons: Syniurge, Matthew Leitzke, & TheBackyardScientist

You can check out my Patreon page if you'd like to support my channel yourself through this link: https://www.patreon.com/NightHawkProjects

Thanks for watching!
  • Critical Eats Japan

    You're a wizard, Harry...

  • Chewy V

    Quit holding everything like you're about to drink it, you're just getting my hopes up for nothing

  • razzmatazz1974

    I have just read some books about the history of alchemy and the best explanation i found was that the base ore used by several alchemists (stibnite) has small amounts of dissolved gold. The alchemical process purifies and separates the gold creating a dark deposit with an upper crust of real pure gold. This seems to be the origin of the lead to gold legend. Actually no gold is created just a separation of already existing gold in the sample

  • Kydrou Kair Renner Oudre

    You should sell snow globes with the stuff

  • Evan'sWorld

    Thank you for being a non click bait king of random

  • Antony Holme

    Alchemy; the science of understanding the structure of matter, breaking it down, then reconstructing it as something else. It can even make gold from lead. But alchemy is a science, so it must follow the natural laws: To create, something of equal value must be lost. This is the principle of Equivalent Exchange.

  • MiauxCatterie

    as someone who has always had a hard time with chemistry, i found this video extremely engaging as well as easy to follow. i think that you would be excellent at teaching chemistry the way alton brown teaches food science- by getting into the details. great video, great music choice, this was exciting to watch.

  • ๖ۣۜ♥๖̶tacokitten๖̶

    Most people know this today, but gold can be created with no additional matter by modern scientists from other less valuable elements using a Nuclear Fission Reactor, an extremely large and very complex device invented in the 1940s that is usually used for sustainable Power or Energy, electricity, in power plants, that can be very dangerous to the point of disaster-scale problems if not maintained by a team of skilled professionals and safety precautions. In 1980, an American scientist named Glenn Seaborg, best known for the discovery of a bunch of those unstable elements at the bottom of the periodic table that have only existed a few atoms at a time and nobody usually cares about, successfully transformed lead matter (atomic number 82) into gold atoms (atomic number 79) using a nuclear fission reactor. However, the amount of energy that is required from the nuclear reactor and the time it takes to perform this experiment vastly exceeds many times over the worth in modern prices of the very small amount of gold that is proportionally created, in total. So, the total amount of new stable gold atoms added to the world from performing this has to date not influenced the total amount of gold in the world or on the market to any degree at all. Alchemists unfortunately never came close at all to what they tried so hard to do even once, but though it can be done today, the dream of lots of gold for everyone, even the potential to replace copper as a useful wire conductor, will not occur unless ways are found to make the nuclear fission process for gold many times over far cheaper and more efficient. Most scientists pursue other goals that have far more meaningful and perceived possible results.

  • Shadow Planner

    No offence but I think you'd do a really good Kermit the frog impression. Other than that though nice video!

  • JokerBrand64

    He would be a badass teacher

  • Linuxpunk81

    1. At the exoteric level this phrase is about literally turning a rusty old lead pipe into a bar of shining gold bullion. This is extremely enticing because it represents the ultimate get rich quick scheme. The profane man is easily motivated by this prospect, but when he finds out that he cannot make gold out of lead he becomes angry. Without understanding the deep meaning of symbols, he simply gives up. The exoteric, literal, materialist meaning is given out to the public to keep them estimating everything in life at face value. Because there is no literal method of turning the base metals into gold, the art of alchemy becomes reduced to a curious relic from the ancient world. It is seen as the foolish work of magicians who lived in ignorance of actual scientific laws. Because most people stick with exoteric understandings the occult remains hidden.2. The occult meaning of turning the base metals into gold has to do with self-realization, and improvement. It is all about becoming a better, more enlightened person. Base metals, lead, or the Prima Materia of alchemy symbolize a man in his primal state, living in ignorance. By actually recognizing his own faults, and by making the choice to improve upon them, he is slowly raised up to new life. The gold is the light of the sun imbued into the consciousness of the alchemist. A flood of hidden knowledge is revealed, and the world becomes a far different place. Constant change is part of the occult process of alchemy. Throughout life, one dies and is reborn over and over again. So the occult meaning of alchemy is simply self reflection, actualization, and enlightenment. The process itself is catalyzed by symbols. It is through an understanding of ancient symbolism that the alchemist sees the world in a new light. 3. The esoteric interpretation of alchemy is actually a subtle intertwining of both literal and allegorical aspects of symbols. It uses symbolism to describe heavenly ideas/ ideals. These ideas are considered divine inspiration. They represent the blueprint by which the natural world should be remade. By intensely studying nature (with science), and understanding its mysterious processes, the natural progress of evolution can be sped up. Nature takes a very long time to change. With the art of alchemy the process is expedited. An artificial world is created in this way. Life itself is the product of nature, and the true Natural Man seeks to change it according to his own interpretation of ancient symbols. To turn the base metals into gold could be interpreted as altering the base metals, which symbolically represent base (profane) men, by turning them into gold. Because the profane man is forever ignorant, it is the assumed duty of the alchemist to help him along. By turning otherwise useless metals (human beings) into gold (wealth) the alchemical process is put into high gear. Eventually, this Method gives birth to a whole new world. -by Aaron Franz 2011

  • Blake Merrithew

    looks like witch craft to me.... better see if you weigh as much as a duck to be sure.

  • Peak0ck

    8:30 Aqua regia was first prepared by Persian alchemist Jabir Ibn Al-Hayyan in the 8th century AD by dissolving ammonium chloride into nitric acid. Source : Principe, Lawrence M. (2012). The secrets of alchemy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226682951.

  • The Death claw Hunter 231

    You look like starlord

  • Tilde#3023

    the main goals of and alchemist are1. philosophers stone2. make a living homunculus 3. turn base metals into gold4. universal solvent

  • Rav3 G0d

    Every time you held a beaker up inside it looked like you were going to drink it

  • Elox

    I have interest in anthropology and I've been studying about witchcraft, alchemy, multiple religions and comparing them to modern day science to see certain similarities.What you did was astonishing and for me it means the first few steps on how humans got to know about chemical reactions, like you said; someone of that era who didn't have the scientific method and little was known about how substances reacted to each other and were not capable of studying their compositions would be easily fooled by this, however it would still cause commotion among the people of that time, it would be like if someone managed to create oil from water using alchemy/chemestry, that would spout a lot of controversy in todays time and could affect the economy greatly. So it would be better to keep it as a secret.Also, one misconception that people have is that alchemy is not only about trying to turn lead into gold or things of the like, it's also about purifying certain substances into their purest form which could have been the grandad of the purification methods we have today, such as filtration and evaporation, just to name a few.It truly makes you think about a lot of things for the future. Could we be able to alter matter in such a way that we could turn a gas into a metal? Just to say something insane, we never know what we could be able to do in the future.Great video! I'll make sure to link it to some people that have the same interest.

  • cpuman

    every time he holds up that beaker, i feel like he is going to drink it.

  • holdmybeer

    yes. make a new show called. "ancient alchemy busters."

  • Gabe Sewell

    This was a good video until I saw the results, then I thought it was a fantastic video. Very very impressive with amazing results!

  • BoredomIsAnUnderstatement

    Wow...! That ended up looking so pretty, like something you'd see in a snow globe. I especially liked the final bottle you put it in -- I don't know what it's actually called anymore (it's been a few years since high school), but it looks like something you'd pour potions into. Watching the precipitate glitter in the light was so lovely...!

  • The Ded Authority

    What is the beginning music called?

  • valentin yagami

    Hello ! Well personnally i don't understand a lot of things in Alchemy but i find this video very intersting for real, good job ! I d'like to see more videos like that in the futur, i wish you the best for the futur, amazing video :D

  • john sears

    That ‘lead’ into the start of alchemy

  • Szakembőr TV TMIAE

    Please note that there are 2 lead acetates: II and IV, (CH3COO)2Pb and CH3COO)4PbThe divalent tastes sweet but the tetravalent hydrolyzes to acetic acid so it tastes terrible

  • Pronyx

    The first thing that came to my head when I look at the videos title was FMA lol

  • Robert S.

    Really interesting video. I would like to try this at some point. Great job at explaining each process and the reasoning behind using substitute ingredients. Thanks for the post. :)

  • Jorge Padilla

    he looks like he would be a bartender in the 1900's

  • Scoop Science

    Wow!! This was really awesome. I was surprised how easy it was to make this reaction. I'm thinking about giving this a go myself!!

  • Daniel Geer

    I'm pretty sure the Lead to Gold idea was more about the commonality of Lead ( being used for pretty much everything ) and turning it into gold ( a rather rare metal ) it would be the equivalent of growing money on trees.

  • Ryan Hudson

    I remember seeing an experiment that made water burn, I always thought that could have lead to the idea of greek fire

  • Red Coat

    Dispite some experimental obstacles, your hard work paid off in the end, a spectacular golden rain! Congratulations! Maybe mixing lead with Uranium could have neutron bombarded it up tp gold but I dont think the alchemists were into nuclear physics. So how about an early form of cold fusion using electrochemistry (some copper/zinc vessels found in middle eastern tombs indicate they may have had primitive batteries). Agreed its a very long, longshot!

  • RomeoAndRandom 99

    This video was perfect, that footage of the crystals in the vile was AMAIZING

  • Pablo Carnovale

    12:00 I keep thinking "he's drinking it! oh no! he's drinking it!" lol

  • maulanamalique

    the title for the intro song?

  • tom williams

    should be called golden shower experiment

  • soundfxmaster

    Alright so I've actually done alot of research into this sort of thing and I'm almost certain I know where it actually comes from. The idea that alchemy looked to make lead into gold is a bit misleading, the actual concept is to transform "base metals" into gold, such as copper nickel tin zinc etc also including lead, many Beleived lead was the metal to use since it's phisical properties are very similar to gold however if you look at the list I layed out two things might strike you as standing out with a bit of basic metallurgical knowledge: copper and zinc my theory is that they were actually attempting to make a type of soft brass (alloying lead nickle and zinc with a base of copper gives a result of a very soft brass so long as it is done right) which at the time would be nearly indistinguishable from gold, I've actually made what I call "alchemists gold" before to make gold coins for a table top game I was playing and for a moment we of the people around me (including a jewler) thought I had either brought real gold or painted lead it is a very convincing proxy although upon closer examination it is easy to tell the difference as the lead doesn't always alloy perfectly and leaves silver inclusions as well as a just faintly different colour that anyone around gold often enough can spot in just a few seconds of close inspection anyways that's my theory and how I've put it to practice hope you guys enjoyed my rant

  • AynenMakino

    Nice video! I love the angle of trying to discover where the idea of creating gold from lead came from! More of this please!Question: When did people first start to understand what iodine is or how to isolate it? Was the seaweed in your theory just a lucky guess for the medieval chemist to have tried it?What other sources of potasium iodine might they have had access to?

  • Sponge Robert

    It was resistant to burning because you ground the seaweed into a powder so there wasn't enough space for air to be present. Sort of like how you can't burn cornstarch, until you blow it out of your mouth with a flame

  • Adrien Perié

    No way they believed this was gold, even they knew gold doesn't dissolve in water or basically all acids. Also, having seen gold particles precipitating out of solution myself there is no chance one could possibly mistake that for it, gold looks much darker with no visible crystals. Basically reddish brown. Scientists back then had nothing but their five senses to observe the world around them with, they gave a lot more importance to what they saw than we do, I say no chance in hell.

  • Sp3cial1st

    But what happens if you melt the dried up "gold"? does it actually turn into a gold like bar? Or does it just turn into lead again?

  • Henry Schmale

    I don't think that the Romans used lead acetate as an artificial sweetener, I think it was a by product of their wine making process. Correct me if I'm wrong.

  • Fenrir

    I like how 2lb of seaweed weighs in at 9 KG in other parts of the world.

  • BrEaKiNg_Brad

    You kept holding that beaker like you were about to down it. I was like......do it. drink it!

  • Christian Breitenstein

    Very well done, and that little cheating was not relevant as you had already shown the proof of concept - all you cheated yourself around is lots of seaweed-cooking.That gold-rain shot was beautiful! And I agree, if an ancient person had seen this, the logical conclusion would have been "Gold!"

  • Evan Blenkinsopp

    "After literally a countless hour searching, I finally have it! Gold, purest gold!""Percy... It's green."

  • Nuvenor

    Someone tell him golden rain means something else..

  • bob bobbinson

    Is this Will Wheaton's Dad?

  • the bronylike superchannel

    In my research, they did have nitric acidIt was however called aqua fortis

  • Stormbringer1992

    Correct me if I'm wrong but aren't walnut leaves a better source of iodine?

  • Titan Senpai

    More like Golden Shower

  • chillzwinter

    Can you do an experiment where you extract Hydrogen from H2O, and demonstrate how to inflate a birthday balloon using the hydrogen, and show it flying away?

  • DragonElf66

    You could probably make lead nitrate from potassium nitrate, available either as a mineral or from bat guano, and lead sulfate made by heating galena

  • gilbet

    Love the golden snow globe and music. I bet people would really enjoy a whole video of just relaxing music and a beautiful slow-motion display at which to stare, and dream.

  • DANKerTester

    this was super cool, It looks pretty enough to sell a vial of it for quite a bit 2500 years ago. heck, id like to have one as a sort of fake gold snowglobe

  • Dawn Ripper

    Devaluing gold at it's finest!

  • wes owen

    Do you consider yourself more a Chemist or Alchemist? That's what I want to know

  • ratzikratzi

    12:03Hello boys and girls. Today I'm going to drink some poisonous liquid.Here we go.

  • Neceros

    You shouldn't raise your eyebrows when you talk so much. It comes naturally to some people, but it doesn't look good.

  • nightmare in action

    do i think you did a good job with this video no you dint you made an spectacular video

  • ULTRA NOOB

    Drink that and you will lay golden eggs for 999 days

  • Daniel P

    I'm pretty sure 2lbs aren't 9kg XD

  • PartyNator

    Everything is cool and all but where's the Equivalent Exchange part? :thinking:

  • Stephen Johnson

    How long does the effect in the beaker remain like that? I'd be interested in created a sealed version for personal display as it is quite beautiful.

  • PhoenixDjinni96

    golden showers of gratitude for the non clickbaits

  • Stupid Robot Fighting League

    Awesome video. Don't set fire to your beard....

  • noah miller

    when you live near the ocean you learn to love the smell of seaweed

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