Unobtainium

 

In Avatar, there’s an economic reason, of course, that humans have traveled to Pandora. Early on in the movie, we’re shown the temptation: a sample of the element levitates in midair, silver, alluring—and apparently worth $20 million a kilogram. Considering the production expenses for Avatar were an estimated $230 million, it would take only 12 kilos of unobtainium to recoup the movie's costs. Spaceward Ho!

Recently bloggers at HCN have highlighted the potential uranium boom in Wyoming (will that entice extraterrestrials to the Equality State?) and the possibility of uranium prospecting around the Grand Canyon. Though yellowcake was only $44.50 a pound ($98.11 a kilo) as of January 4, this notorious -ium is pretty much as close as it gets to unobtainium on Earth. In both cases, locals—whether people or wildlife—are at risk of displacement, much like the Na'vi in James Cameron’s fantasy. 

To cite yet another example, in Weld County, Colorado, several foreign mining corporations are “waiting in the wings” of Powertech, a Canadian uranium firm. Mega outsiders chomping at the bit to dig? Small, upstart groups worried about the impact? Sounds like an Oscar in the making. (For additional plot, revisit HCN feature "Underground movement".)

In other news, you might have unobtainium behind your ears. Turns out it’s a registered trademark of the sunglasses company Oakley and, more broadly, a term used by scientists to describe . . . da, da, da, Dah . . . anything extremely scarce, expensive or impossible.

 

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