post office, osmium

April 3rd 2010 05:51 pm

I was in the post office yesterday, and I noticed they have these flat-rate shipping boxes, advertised with the slogan “If it fits, it ships.” So you pay $13.95 to ship anything that will fit inside a 12″ x 12″ x 5 1/2″ box, for example. Wouldn’t it be funny to fill up one of these boxes with the densest element on the periodic table, then go to the post office and ship it?

flat rate shipping box

Of course the element I speak of is osmium, which weighs in at a hefty 22.6 g/cm3. If my math is correct here, that 12″x12″x5.5″ box translates into 792 cubic inches, or 12.98 liters. Fill it up with a huge block of osmium and it would weigh 293 kilograms, or 646 pounds.

So you’d probably actually need like 6 people to lift the box. And the fact that osmium costs ~$30/gram, this little prank would cost $8.8 million to pull off. Depleted uranium might be a little more economical. It’s only 19.1g/cm3, so fill up that same box with DU and it would only weigh 546 pounds. Still pretty funny.

Posted by dylan under humans | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “post office, osmium”

  1. Chemist responded on 21 Apr 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    You could go to the 2nd most dense element, which should only set you back about 5 million dollars in iridium.

  2. Adrian responded on 10 May 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    I just got a 25mm cube of Tungsten (The alloy I got is 18.1g/cm3) so it made me think of this post. It’s pretty dense and I was coming to see if there was an even heavier element I could get a cube of! It turns out depleted uranium is just a little heavier.


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  4. jim responded on 05 Feb 2016 at 6:24 am #

    Hey, well, I was just writing about my latest Itinerant Artist Project tour (see, during which I had the pleasure of staying with an element collector named Theo Gray. A friend of his had indeed shipped him a block of tungsten in a flat-rate box ($4.95 I think – the friend mercifully chose the smallest flat rate box). The little box was sitting there on a desk…weighed about 50 pounds. The postal service has become very annoyed with the friend.

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