The results in and, not surprisingly, the winners are… gold and silver! The field of competition: number of Google search requests, or “hits.”
Inspired by comic creator xkcd’s “Calendar of Meaningful Dates,” on which the frequency of Google searches for specific dates in a calendar year is indicated by font size, Anders Sandberg did a similar exercise with the elements represented on the standard Periodic Table of Elements. For those of you who haven’t been in a classroom for a while, that’s the colorful grid chart of letters and numbers that hangs on the wall of virtually every high school science classrooms and college chem lab. Per Wikipedia:
Geeky side note: In the standard periodic table, the rows are called periods, the columns groups. “In chemistry, periodic trends are the tendencies of certain elemental characteristics to increase or decrease as one progresses along a row or column of the periodic table of elements.” Thus the standard or alternate forms of periodic table can be used to identify relationships between different chemical properties and to analyze chemical behavior. Although precursors exist, The publication of the first “widely recognized” periodic table is credited to Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869.
Anyhow, according to Sanders’ findings, gold, represented by the symbol Au (aurum in Latin, meaning “glow of sunrise”) and atomic number 79 on the periodic chart, got 2,680,000,000 Google hits. Silver, represented by the symbol (argentum in Latin, from the Indo-European root arg, for “grey” or “shining”) and atomic number 47, received 1,870,000,000. (The atomic number represents the number of protons, or positive charges, in the nucleus of an atom of an element.)
Running a relatively close third, Sanders found, was lead, a fact he speculates might be due to the verb spelled the same way, as in “to lead a horse to water.”
Just out of curiosity, WealthCycles did its own Google search on “platinum” (symbol Pt, from the Spanish platina, or "little silver” and atomic number 79) which came in at a respectable 463,000,000 hits.
Although it’s impossible to say exactly what Google searchers were looking for when they keyed in “gold” and “silver,” WealthCycles is not at all surprised that so many did so. After all, gold has inspired poets, artists and emperors throughout human history. Throughout that same history, great civilizations, whatever currency misadventures and malfeasance their leaders have perpetrated, have returned time and again to the wealth-preserving solidity of gold and silver. As Michael Maloney, in his book Guide to Investing in Gold and Silver, summed it up as well as anyone could: