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In the Fullmetal Alchemist manga/2009 anime, we learn that alchemists must obey three rules:

Do not oppose the military

Do the transmute gold

Do not do human transmutation

Moreover, at one point in the early manga (probably chapter 3, according to Wikipedia), we see Ed transmute what appears to be gold from rocks, when he is duping Yoki into selling him rights to Youswell. (However, in the context of my question below, this might also be attributed to early-installment weirdness, since in the corresponding episode in the 2003 anime - episode 9 - I think we see Ed giving Yoki rocks that have been coated with gold from coins Ed got from Yoki.)

Both of the above seem to imply that transmuting gold is possible in the FMA universe, yet this seems to be contradictory given some other manga details. In the first chapter, we learn from Al that with alchemy, one can only transmute like from like. Being me, I read this to imply that the sort of conservation of mass alluded to when chemical equations are balanced generally applies in terms of what alchemy can do the FMA universe (at least in the more practical, mundane examples we see in the manga). (On a second read, I'm really not sure if that's a "correct" interpretation.)

Thus: is transmuting gold actually taken to be something possible in the FMA universe (or is it even possible to come to a conclusion about this)?

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    After the update, I think that there could be a problem, too. They need the exact ingredients to create a human (or something close), but for gold, they need coal? Hm. – looper Mar 17 '14 at 16:02
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    Yeah - I'm wondering if I'm simply reading too much into the equivalent exchange idea, but I'm not sure if even a looser interpretation (e.g. metals can only be transmuted into other metals) would be consistent with, for instance, the more or less exact ingredients we see used in (trying to) transmute corpses or humans. – Maroon Mar 17 '14 at 17:23
  • Update: it seems that there isn't a clear-cut answer to this. While there seems to be an issue as mentioned earlier, the concept of having "four elements" (as mentioned in the same page I linked) combined with the general ambiguitiy of how transmutations work would seem to imply that transmuting gold (at least from lesser metals anyway) would be possible. – Maroon May 15 '14 at 2:09
  • In the manga, I'm going to assume that the sludge mentioned is coal slurry which is waste from mining coal. This sludge generally has a high abundance of elements including trace amounts of various metals. At this point it's perfectly plausible for Ed to create a large amount of gold From the sludge given that there were about two tons to work with. It is also stated that alchemists are capable of creating gold, but it is outlawed by the Amestrian government to prevent economic collapse. – user9156 Nov 13 '14 at 16:02
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    Actually, the gold coating came from the gold coins Yoki gave him. – Killua Nov 13 '14 at 16:03
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Yes, transmuting gold is possible (at least in the manga). The reason why it's forbidden is stated later in the series: It's forbidden so nobody can destroy the economy by making the gold worthless.

The mass is also conserved, I see no problem there. A ton of coal makes a ton of gold. Equal mass :).

Note: In the first adaption, Ed did not transmutate gold but instead coated the coal in gold. Either it's not possible in the 2003 anime or he didn't want to violate the law. (Thanks to キルア)

  • Thanks for the response! I just realized that I didn't quite get my actual question across in my question though, so I'll probably either edit my question later or write a new one. – Maroon Mar 16 '14 at 22:05
  • I'm accepting this for now since it otherwise doesn't make sense that there would be such a law in the first place, and at least in theory (given Al's comments) it sounds like I might not be understanding how alchemy works in FMA well enough. But as you pointed out with the human transmutation case, it does seem ... weird. – Maroon Jul 4 '14 at 6:58
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    You may want to edit this answer to reflect that Ed did not make any gold. He used alchemy to reshape the coal, then used the gold coins he had to coat the coal in gold, appearing as gold bars. We never see gold actually manufactured in FMA, but it is never stated to be impossible. – Killua Jul 4 '14 at 16:49
  • Might that have also happened in the corresponding scene in the manga then? (At least that was my interpretation, but I'm not sure.) – Maroon Jul 5 '14 at 20:47
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When the Elric brothers go to Youswell in the beginning of the 2003 series. They don't actually transmute coal into gold, but rather Edward uses the gold coins that Yoki bribed him with to cover the coal.

This was not the case in the manga though. As you can see he says that "by logic" he should be able to transmute the same amount of coal into the same amount of gold.

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Click for enlarged image.

And then here he really does transmute coal into gold, which he later gives to Yoki (and performs a reverse transmutation...)

  • Hmmm... either way I suppose it's still reasonable to interpret him as just making "fake" gold, and that to a degree, this is what is being prohibited in the law? Since that would make the most sense in light of the precision required for things like human transmutation. – Maroon Jul 7 '14 at 4:23
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    I need to clarify here: Edward did say that he could create the gold through alchemy, but he does not do this. He uses a pile of sludge he finds in a rail yard (page 29 of chapter 3) along with the bribe he received (page 23 of chapter 3). – Killua Jul 7 '14 at 4:35
  • @キルア: Ah that makes sense. idk, after asking this question I've concluded that I actually don't quite know how FMA alchemy works, so I was wondering. – Maroon Jul 7 '14 at 4:56
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    @Maroon Such a question might be too broad for the site, but if you want some one-on-one clarification, there's always chat. – Killua Jul 7 '14 at 4:58
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Gold on the periodic table is Au.

Alchemy is the science of deconstructing and reconstructing matter.

Simply put so long as we are talking about taking apart and rebuilding compounds one would only need to separate gold from any existing compounds. This is suggested in several episodes, yet still, it is never made explicit. This would mean that no. It is not possible to create gold from compounds not containing Au.

Au is actually kinda rare in everyday items. Seawater contains a small amount of it, yet most things that use gold use gold in it's purest form to conduct electricity.

If it is deconstructing atoms to base protons, electrons and neutrons and reordering them to have the properties of AU then yes it is possible and easy. It is suggested that this isn't the case but the existence the "law of equivalent exchange". No alchemist would need any specific ingredients because they can create pretty much anything out of anything else.

The former is suggested in several episodes, yet the possibility to create gold is suggested in the law that state alchemists can not create gold.

So the correct answer. Shrug Full metal alchemist doesn't let real science get in the way if it's fun. Which is a good thing.

  • I'm quite confused what your point is. Are you saying that it is possible but forbidden to transmute gold - or that it is not possible to transmute gold at all? – nhahtdh Jan 20 '15 at 17:25
  • Scientifically Possible but prohibitively difficult. In Canon Possible but forbidden. – Matt Draft Jan 20 '15 at 17:41
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It's important to remember that alchemy in FMA follows the Law of Equivalent exchange... Essentially a more lenient version of the 2nd law of thermal Dynamics.

Mass is not the only ingredient conserved, energy must be conserved as well. Transmutation of rocks into differently shaped rocks can be accomplished with the geothermal energy available in the environment or Philosopher's Stones but changing the composition of elements would take orders of magnitude more energy.

Perhaps why such exact ingredients are required for human transmutation is to avoid a rebound... Or make them less likely.

Of course any mining castoff should contain a large enough amount of Iron and Sulphur to produce loads of Pyrite, if that energy wasn't available.

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Yo, guys. I'll try to clear some of this up. In the manga(and as I see it, the true canon, being that it was made first) Ed turns Sludge(coal dust in ViZ version) in to Gold. As stated earlier, Sludge has trace amounts of metals in it, being that it comes from mining coal, and being that coal is under ground, where we find metal, it is possible to convert coal sludge in to gold. More difficult than just straight up metal, since you can never tell how much metal is in the sludge without a proper examination, which Ed never did. Again, this is all based on the manga, being that it was the original story and ultimate source if you can't consult the author. I hope this cleared it up at least a bit, thanks for reading.

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