July 4, 2011 1 Comment
I guess everyone’s heard about Wolfram Alpha, the web service that responds to quantitatively oriented natural language queries by computing the answers from structured data.
Molybdenum’s odd appeal derives in large measure from its obscurity. I was therefore a bit worried that Wolfram Alpha, with its 5 million lines of Mathematica code, its 10,000 servers, and its 10+ trillion pieces of curated data (“from primary sources with continuous updating”), would render molybdos.com utterly irrelevant. Especially given the steadily declining mol spot price and abysmal rate at which I have been producing new posts.
Furthermore, it turns out that Mathematica co-founder Theo Gray, who was several years ahead of me at University High School in Urbana, has a rather singular fascination with the chemical elements. Indeed, here is a picture from his website where he is showing author Oliver Sacks his wooden periodic table:
Molybdenum is element 42. I think it’s a fair guess that everyone who reads this site knows that:
The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is calculated by an enormous supercomputer over a period of 7.5 million years to be 42. Unfortunately no one knows what the question is.
But the results are thoroughly workmanlike, with an emphasis on molybdenum’s physical properties. Pretty much the same dry facts that you’ll find on the right-hand side of the Wikipedia page. Interestingly, though, Wolfram Alpha does mention that the sound speed in pure Mo is 6190 m/s, the fourth-fasted of any element. That’s Mach 18, fully 55% of the escape velocity from Earth’s surface.
There doesn’t seem to be much else, so the reading public will need to continue frequenting molybdos.com. The only pod of economics-related molybdenum data that I could coax out of the engine was a curiously out-of-date time series of molybdenum prices, running from 1912 to 1998:
Quite an interesting plot, actually. The price spike in 1980 was quite dramatic. In 2008 dollars, the 1980 spot price of mol reached 25.60 USD/lb, which was close (but not quite as high) as the great molybdenum bubble of 2005, where the spot price topped out at a staggering all-time high of 46.00 USD/lb.
Was Molybdenum a good inflation hedge? Here’s the result of typing united states inflation rate time series into Wolfram Alpha: