Gold on Fire

Gold on Fire

November 30, 2019

The shiniest spot on the Statue of Liberty is the flame on her torch. It’s made of copper inside, but coated in a thin layer of gold, like a lot of our jewelry. So Bedtime Math fan Emerson S. asked, how much gold is on that flame? The torch stands more than 300 feet off the ground, so it’s bigger than it looks. It’s about the same height as the Statue’s pointy finger, which is 8 feet tall. But gold can be pounded really, really thin: 1 ounce of gold, which is 1/2 the weight of a candy bar but only the size of a quarter, can spread to cover 100 square feet — about the size of your bedroom floor! Thankfully, jeweler Kristen Reyes found the actual answer: the torch is covered in 5,000 little 3-inch squares that weigh less than 6 ounces total. We think the Statue likes that more than a pair of earrings.

Wee ones: Who’s taller, you or that 8-foot-tall flame? Find out your height in feet!

Little kids: If you can make 2 gold earrings from each ounce of gold, how many earrings can you make from 2 ounces?  Bonus: If half of the 6 ounces of gold on the torch peeled off, how much would be left on there?

Big kids: The “surface area” around a ball is always 4 times pi (3.14) times the radius times the radius again, where the radius is 1/2 the distance across. What’s the surface area of the Statue’s 8-foot flame? (You can round pi to 3.)  Bonus: If you peeled off one of those 5,000 sheets of gold for yourself, how many would be left?




Wee ones: The flame is taller…almost no people are 8 feet tall!

Little kids: 4 earrings.  Bonus: 3 ounces.

Big kids: About 192 square feet, without the fingers of flames.  Bonus: 4,999 sheets.

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About the Author

Laura Overdeck

Laura Overdeck

Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking before she could walk, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.

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