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The age-old riddle is simple: i beg your pardon weighs more, a lb of feather or a pound of lead? your instnict might be come go through the command — in equal amounts, lead, ~ all, is heavier than feathers. But this is a trick question. A pound is a unit of weight; therefore, a lb of X weighs the exact same as a lb of Y.

You are watching: Pound of feathers vs pound of gold

Or walk it?

If you put a pound of feather on one side of a balance and also a lb of lead on the other, the scale would remainder with both sides even with one another. But what if we were come swap the end the lead because that gold? What would take place then?

In the case, the balance would finish up tilted, mirroring that the feathers weigh more. However it has nothing to perform with the feathers or the gold itself — it needs to do with how we measure their weights.

Whenever we usage the term “pound” (to comment on mass/weight at the very least — it method something else when discussing cakes and British currency), we’re talking around pounds as characterized by something called avoirdupois system. It’s the standard, non-metric device you’re familiar with if you’re one American. In the avoirdupois system, there are 16 ounces come a pound. Just to get some math the end of the method — we’ll usage it shortly — one avoirdupois ounce is same to around 28.35 grams. Main point those sixteen ounces through 28.35 grams and also you finish up with around 453.6 grams per avoirdupois pound.

Feathers, being no all that special, space measured in avoirdupois pounds — and so is just around everything else, indigenous cheese and also rubber bands come graphite and also yes, lead. But gold is special. It, and other priceless metals and gemstones, are measured in something referred to as troy pounds. (It’s uncertain why.) A trojan pound has only 12 ounce and a trojan ounce is same to around 31.1 grams. Multiply that out, and also it comes 373.2 grams per trojan pound, or about 20% less than what a lb of feathers weighs.

So if you desire to victory a bar bet, put a pound of feathers on one side of your hypothetical balance and a (troy) pound of yellow on the other. The feathers will certainly weigh more. Of course, testing this in genuine life may be tough — as of this writing, a troy pound of gold will run you more than $15,000.

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Bonus Fact
: A pound of feathers weighs the exact same as a lb of lead, as provided above, however the pound of lead may feel heavier. In 2007, a research study team native Illinois State college took two equal-sized, identical and unlabeled boxes and also put a pound of feather in one and also a pound of command in the other. Then, the test subjects got in action. Put on blindfolds — simply in case — participants sat down with their palm that their leading hand facing upward. A researcher inserted one of the box in their open hand and asked the test topic to background the box, and then repeated the trial for the other box. In ~ the end, the topic was request which box felt heavier. The research study team released their result in clinical journal referred to as Perception. Together their abstract notes, entrants “reported that package containing the lb of lead felt more heavier at a level over chance.”

The most likely explanation? The team offered this theory come the Guardian: “the fixed of the feathers was distributed much more or less symmetrically in the box (i.e., the feather filled the box), however the massive of the lead was dispersed asymmetrically follow me the upright axis (i.e., package was ‘bottom-heavy’). Thus the crate containing lead to be more daunting to control, and it feel heavier.”

From the Archives: southern Korean’s turning back Gold Rush: Here’s a meta-fact about that story: the image isn’t a yellow bar, yet rather a coco bar covering in yellow paper. However, for a few years, it appeared in a Google image Search for “gold.” (The actual story is likewise interesting.)

Related: A pound of (rainbow) feathers. Five pounds the lead. A lb of yellow (kind of). And, just to see if you’re still payment attention, 1,500 live ladybugs (estimated delivery weight: one pound).