Class Warfare Blog

July 2, 2020

Sometimes a Blurb is Enough, Part Whatever

Filed under: writing — Steve Ruis @ 10:42 am

The book is 10,000 Bones written by Joe Ollinger. Here’s the blurb.

“On the planet Brink, calcium is cash. The element’s scarcity led the world’s government to declare it the official currency. In the decades since, the governments of other colonized worlds have suppressed shipments of calcium in order to maintain favorable exchange rates, while Brink’s Commerce Board has struggled to negotiate importation quotas to keep the population alive and growing.”

In such books one is expected to suspend disbelief a tiny bit but this is just silly.

For one, calcium is quite chemically reactive. In an oxygen containing atmosphere it will become calcium oxide (calcium hydroxide if damp) in short order. A sample of calcium placed on a sensitive balance pan will show the mass going up in real time, hence a reliable measure of the amount of calcium one has cannot be easily made.

We used to use gold as a form of currency because it doesn’t react chemically with much of anything. It just stays shiny and its mass stays fixed with no special storage requirements. But we recognized that gold has many uses (electrical contact plating, tooth crowns, etc.) so using “money” for these tasks is a double edged sword, economically. As a consequence, we invented paper money. We originally had things like “silver certificates” which equated the value of a paper bill with an amount of silver, but then we recalled all of those and now just have paper money that is worth the value of the paper it is printed on, which means almost nothing. (During the Nixon presidency, no less.)

We even have gone away from using metals like copper in our coinage because the value of the copper in a penny exceeds the value of one penny, so people would be encouraged to melt those down or use them otherwise than for money.

Which brings us back to calcium as a currency. It has other uses. Preferably money should have zero to very low intrinsic value once a stable political situation can be established. In very unstable times, having “precious metal” coins was preferred because gold with anyone’s head stamped upon it was acceptable as money (by weighing it). It didn’t matter what government issues the “currency.”

I understand an author’s desire to make a fictional culture different enough to make it interesting, but I wouldn’t be caught dead with a pocketful of calcium, which could react with my perspiration to make caustic lime which eats human flesh. Farmers still use lime pits to dispose of the occasional diseased farm animal . . . dissolves the whole thing from nose to tail, including the “oink.” And there wouldn’t be 10,000 bones left as the lime dissolves the bones, too.


  1. I agree that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to use some rare material as currency just because it’s rare – I’m sure calcium has other uses, like, I’m assuming, in these aforementioned bones.
    But if you really wanted to use calcium as currency, you could lock bits of it in airtight plastic or glass capsules, or use pieces of marble which is about 40% calcium and a lot more stable than actual calcium. Even here on Earth, we’ve actually had calcium-based currencies in cultures that used seashells as money. 🙂


    Comment by List of X — July 3, 2020 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

    • That would be a calcite based economy, not calcium (alone). Calcium is a quite abundant element here but not on this alien planet apparently. But since it is relatively cheap to make smugglers must have had a field day. :o)

      On Fri, Jul 3, 2020 at 7:14 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by Steve Ruis — July 3, 2020 @ 9:47 pm | Reply

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