Close-up of a man's fingernails. There are some gold leaf flakes on the fingertips.
An Irish man attempted to convert his feces into gold. He was jailed for arson and endangering others. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Michael Mandiberg/Flickr)

The mystery of alchemy has inspired many gold diggers over the years, and 30-year-old Paul Moran of Northern Ireland is no exception. Rather than using base metals, however, Moran tried a more personal approach. He placed his own feces on top of an electric heater, thinking his waste would become gold. The experiment caused a fire, and Moran was jailed.

Feces into gold: A perverse alchemy

Moran’s attempt to turn feces into gold caused approximately $4,800 worth of fire damage to his Housing Executive home amid a series of flats at Derrin Park in the North Ireland town of Enniskillen. The blaze was serious enough to warrant fire department intervention, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

Judge David McFarland of Enniskillen Magistrates Court sentenced Moran to three months in prison for arson and endangering the lives of others. Upon release, Moran will serve 12 months of probation.

“Rather bizarrely, you were attempting to make gold from human feces and waste products,” McFarland said to Moran in court. “It was an interesting experiment to fulfill the alchemist’s dream, but wasn’t going to succeed.”

According to Moran’s attorney Des Fahy, Moran is a man of “considerable intellectual ability, but there was a clear problem over the years relating to drug abuse.” Moran is currently on anti-psychotic medication.

The alchemical path

While many points of origin have been lost to history, alchemy has maintained its philosophical and mystical roots. Using the legendary philosopher’s stone, a student of alchemy is supposedly able to transmute base metals into noble metals like gold or silver, or even into a life-prolonging elixir. In general, alchemy is viewed as a pseudo-science that fuses mythology, religion and spirituality with pretensions toward elemental science.

What Paul Moran could have done with his waste

Instead of attempting to covert feces into gold, Moran could conceivably have exercised scientific thinking with a proven basis in reality. The science blog Celsias notes that urine is rich in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, which are the three main ingredients in commercial plant fertilizer. A study in Finland found that human urine was very effective for fertilizing cabbage, as well as much less expensive than commercially produced fertilizers.

Feces, while more difficult to work with because of the potential presence of pathogens, can also be useful in methane production. Converting bio-solids into natural gas can go a long way toward addressing renewable energy needs, worldwide.

‘Alchemy: Sacred Secrets Revealed’

Sources

Alchemy Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alchemy

Belfast Telegraph: http://bit.ly/oc5ghu

Celsias: http://www.celsias.com/article/getting-most-human-waste/

Geekosystem: http://www.geekosystem.com/poop-into-gold/

Gizmodo: http://gizmo.do/r5RTWC

Philosopher’s stone Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosopher%27s_stone

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