I’m not going to get into too many political discussions on this blog. I’ll leave that to my husband Jason Busch with his blog. But on a recent trip to NASA with our four-year-old, I couldn’t help but smile when our tour bus driver began discussing his pet subject, commercializing NASA innovations. Needless to say, my ears immediately perked up.

No matter your politics or views on where/how US tax dollars are spent, if you haven’t been to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida, I’d highly recommend a visit. Whether listening to the Astronaut Encounter (in our case we heard 5 time shuttle astronaut John Blaha) or the tour bus driver there is something inspirational for everyone.

When our bus driver mentioned a piece of legislation enacted in the early 60’s requiring NASA to work with the private sector to commercialize discoveries from the space program, I couldn’t wait to log-on to see what metals related innovations were discovered 50 miles above the earth. I didn’t have to look hard to find the following:

  1. Conductive fibers to replace metal wiring. These fibers are used in thermal blankets, aerospace wiring, electromagnetic interference shielding, and medical patient apparel. They are much lighter and less messy than copper.
  2. Failure analysis on military helicopter metal parts. Through a partnership with NASA and the Marshall Space Flight Center, failed helicopter parts such as rotors, engine parts, fasteners etc are analyzed through a high power microscope and facility to identify the root cause of failure. These failures can then be traced to various processes such as heat treatment, machining, formed, and fitted etc.
  3. Stronger than titanium with cooling properties similar to plastic, Liquidmetal used for flash drive casings as well as a new breed of baseball bat.
  4. And my personal favorite, Zipnut elminates the need to thread a nut onto a bolt

Innovation is certainly alive and well. We’ll continue to write about metals related inventions. If you have a new metal-related product offering, drop us a line, we’d love to hear about it! lreisman@aptiumglobal.com

–Lisa Reisman

Are We Headed For The Middle Ages?

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Commodities, Global Trade

I read a fascinating article the other day by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard for the Sunday Telegraph The Sunday Telegraph (the slightly stuffy Sunday edition of Britain’s best quality paper the Daily Telegraph). My father worked for them for 20 years and banned the reading in our house of any other newspaper  — a rule that still holds sway to this day. Anyhow, the article was regarding the gold price and where the true value should lie. Mr Pritchards’ suggestion was that due to a combination of steadily dwindling world production, rising consumption and the flight to a safe haven as governments devalue their own currencies by flooding the world with cheap money we may be heading for a Gold price closer to $3000/ounce. Apparently this was the price of gold for much of the Middle Ages, adjusted in real terms, only falling when Spain began to flood Europe with gold plundered from the Inca and Aztec civilizations. Since then, at least for much of the 1800-2000’s it averaged $630/ounce in real terms.

Gold has been one of the hardest of the metal prices to call during the last 2-3 years. It has clearly benefited from the relationship the commodity funds put between oil and gold, typically buying 35% gold for every 65% investment in oil. As oil has been bid up so has gold.Needless to say not everyone supports Mr Pritchards’ ideas (tongue in cheek as they are) UBS’ John Reade suggests gold is overvalued by some $150/ounce but that in itself doesn’t mean it will fall. Over the short term it is driven by sentiment not fundamentals.

And just to show how the best research departments can get it wrong Goldman Sachs advised clients in November to short gold following which it moved up $60/ounce! So while a return to the Middle Ages is unlikely, consol yourself with the thought that it would appear that even the best minds in the business can’t agree on where gold will be heading next.

–Stuart Burns

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