Perhaps She Meant “Dense?”

Lisa Miller, Cash in a Mattress?, Newsweek (Mar. 7, 2009):

A hundred-ounce gold bar, when you hold it in your hand, is surprisingly small and even more surprisingly heavy.

It’s dense, too, but I think “heavy” is the right word. You don’t directly sense density; what you are feeling, and what surprises you, is weight. Sure, you already know that it weighs one hundred ounces, but you instinctively expect it to weigh about the same as other things with the same volume. That it doesn’t, is a surprise.

Yes, the physicist would think M/V and say gold is dense. The non-physicist (Newsweek reader) would probably think of density in terms of the relative compression of a given substance. E.g. dense fog versus light fog. Since the gold in the bar is not compressed, the non-physicist reader would probably be more confused than enlightened by a reference to surprising density.

Ok, I will now stop quibbling in your comments section!

If the rich people get to trade in their assets (boring dollars) for cooler equivalents (surprisingly dense! bars of gold), can I trade in my debts for something more vivid and rich in symbolism, too? Maybe Sallie Mae would be willing to give me a swarm of bees or a pack of wolves in exchange for my student loans.