Here are some of the main ideas students should take away from this video:
DAVID POGUE (Technology Guru): Copper; symbol Cu; atomic number 29—29 protons, 29 electrons.
The ancients first learned how to heat rocks to extract copper, at least 7,000 years ago.
And, today, it's one of the most widely bought and sold metals in the world. The New York Mercantile Exchange is a vital hub in the global metals market, which is pretty good news for me.
At least, I thought so.
ED MOSES (Director, National Ignition Facility): Sorry, sir, you can't come in with this.
DAVID POGUE: I thought this is a copper exchange. I'm here to exchange some copper.
ED MOSES: I'm sorry, that's not allowed on the floor. You can't come in with this.
DAVID POGUE: Seriously? The only business that they're willing to do here is to buy or sell copper futures? Like, who would fall for that?
ANTHONY GRISANTI (Commodities Trader): Oh, this is an old, old business. This goes back to the 1800s, the late 1800s, where farmers were looking, actually, for money to plant their next year's crops. So what the farmers would do is they would say, for example, "David, you loan me some money, okay? And then, in the future, I will sell you that crop that I planted for this amount of dollar."
So what I'm doing is I'm selling you the right to buy or sell my future crops.
DAVID POGUE: So this crazy high-tech thing began as a glorified farmer's market?
HARRIET HUNNABLE (Managing Director, CME Group): In fact, this exchange, in New York, started as a butter and cheese exchange, on Harrison Street.
DAVID POGUE: Is it safe to say there's no cheese pit here somewhere?
Uh, gruyere, gruyere! Cheddar, cheddar!
HARRIET HUNNABLE: David, you have to go to Chicago for that.
DAVID POGUE: They still do that?
HARRIET HUNNABLE: Yeah, they still trade agricultural products.
DAVID POGUE: I would think that there would be trading markets like this for gold and silver and platinum, and things that are valuable, but copper? Come on, it's like pennies, it's like…
HARRIET HUNNABLE: Copper is king, okay? Copper is used for everything. It's a really vital metal. We use it for infrastructure; we use it for electronic goods. I can hardly think of anything that doesn't have either a tiny bit of copper or lots of copper. I love copper. I do. I do.
DAVID POGUE: I'm getting that.
Harriet tells me that the copper market is huge. Traders in New York, London and Shanghai buy and sell more than 20 million tons a year. Copper is in wire, electronics and computer chips, plumbing and other building materials. It's so important that the rise and fall of copper prices provide a snapshot of the health of the entire world economy. When times are bad, copper prices tumble, and when times are good, they soar. Some say it should be called "Dr. Copper," because it's the only metal with a Ph.D. in economics.
Copper has been prized for millennia for its unique properties: it conducts electricity better than any metal except silver; it's malleable and has a moderate melting temperature; it even scares away bacteria.
These guys can trade their copper futures; I've got to unload my copper today.
Commodities! Get your commodities! Got copper at 80 cents a pound. Anybody? Anybody?
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