Erm, hello?

But the price of cobalt has shot up since the lab first began its research, thanks to the element’s use in the flat batteries that power gadgets like iPads and iPhones.

“The iPad has completely changed the price of cobalt,” Dr. Chirik said, “so something that once was garbage is now valuable.”

iPad introduced 3 April 2010.

Cobalt price 3 April 2010 was $38,000 a tonne.

Cobalt price today, 100 ish million iPad sales later, is $26,000 a tonne.

18 thoughts on “Erm, hello?”

  1. The good doctor’s statement is wank on its basic premise anyways; Cobalt has always been a valuable metal since it is used for wear resistant materials like Stellite and Colmonoy (basically Cobalt/Chrome alloys)

  2. hahaha that PhD is in Humanities or from a mill?

    Not a chance he has a qualification in engineering if he says that

  3. MakajazMonkee @ 4:

    Nope, he’s a well qualified chemist, apparently. But, perhaps, his view is no stupider than yours, given that you can’t even click on Tim’s link…

  4. Surely cheap, small, strong magnets are the driver for Cobalt usage? I remember Cobalt-Samarium drivers being a selling point for headphones I was buying in the late 80s.

    Tim adds: Co Sm, yes. But now generally (although not totally) replaced by NdFeB.

  5. MM: why on earth would you expect someone with a qualification in engineering to automatically be good at commodity pricing or at economics? (aside from standard engineer bluster about the worth of all non-engineering qualifications and all opinions held by non-engineers, naturally…)

  6. iPad iPhone. So if he means iPad 2010 is the right date. If he means iPhone (though much smaller battery, if rather more of them, and even more Android and other smart phone batteries) then earlier is more correct.

    Just googling a little, there appears to have been a massive increase in the 2010 year, at about June 2010, then staying relatively even at that level for perhaps a year, then a steady decline. Perhaps a reaction to the iPad demand followed by access to new sources or a lessening of the panic ?

    Might be something in what he says, but he didn’t express it well. Or are the charts I accessed wrong about the big jump in 2010 ?

  7. The data I’ve got hold of is showing a peak price of about $115k per tonne in Mar 2008? Since when it has pretty much collapsed back to something approaching historical norms (allowing for inflation.)

    Cobalt did, indeed, used to be not-just-garbage but actively hated – (some of) the ore is very hard and damaged mining tools. Hence the name (kobolds being Germanic vicious underground goblins.) But, as has been said, it has been a useful metal for many years now.

  8. @ Johnb

    “why on earth would you expect someone with a qualification in engineering to automatically be good at commodity pricing or at economics”

    He said before Iphones Cobalt was “garbage”.

    Its one of the most important engineering materials. We spray Stellite (Co Cr W ) on automotive and aerospace components all the time.

    It was also one of the first bio-materials Vitalium. In fact in old people that won’t last that long you still use it for hip and knees.

  9. A mechanical engineer could reasonably be expected to know that. A structural engineer? A chemical engineer? An electronic engineer? No more likely to know that than an English major, AFAICS.

  10. An electronic engineer would be expected to know about the value of cobalt. Electro-magnetic cores.

    I don’t know enough about what chemical engineers learn these days to know if they would be expected to know about the values of various element groups or individual elements. I’d expect they’d have covered it in 1st year, at least.

    And what’s this trans-Atlantic ‘major’ stuff anyway? You seem to have a bit of a downer on engineers. Petty degree syndrome, perhaps?

  11. If he wanted to make a point about the cobalt price history, he could have looked it up before the interview. He could even have checked after, the journalist probably would have pulled the quote.

  12. SE: not on engineers per se, but on the view prevalent among many of them (especially in internet discourse) that they do Rigour whilst everyone else does Wishy Washy Nonsense – when in practice, outside their specialist areas, an engineer is no more likely to have rigorous, coherent, evidence-based or logical views than anyone else. As for “English major” – the dude’s American.

    PB: exactly. And someone with a Media Studies degree would know that 😉

  13. Rather, someone with a media studies degree probably wouldn’t know that, but they could probably tell you that the comment was racist, sexist, and demeaning to all people called Cobalt.

  14. “A structural engineer? A chemical engineer? An electronic engineer?”

    Any engineering course has a rudimentary materials course

    But no you’re e right I’d feel perfectly safe knowing that structural engineering don’t know anything about the subject 🙂

  15. “When you buy jeans, some weird element on the periodic table was used to make them,” Dr. Chirik said.”

    Crikey, that Levi Strauss has a lot to answer for.

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