Archive for Science

Rare Earth Elements – Recent Developments

In a discovery that might alter the world’s economic infrastructure, a small island off Japan has been found to contains hundreds of years’ worth of rare earth elements used in everything from cellphones to computers to batteries. Read the original paper here.

China has long held the spot as the top producer of these metals, but this find will weaken its stranglehold on the marketplace. China’s Rare-Earth Industry (US Geological Survey Open File Report, 2011) presents a lucid explanation of China’s situation. This 2017 USGS Professional Paper – Critical mineral resources of the United States—Economic and environmental geology and prospects for future supply – reinforces the national security implications for this country not having adequate supplies of these metals.

These CRS reports provide additional information:  China’s Rare Earth Industry and Export Regime: Economic and Trade Implications for the United States (2012); Rare Earth Elements in National Defense: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress (2013); Rare Earth Elements: The Global Supply Chain (2013); and China’s Mineral Industry and U.S. Access to Strategic and Critical Minerals: Issues for Congress (2015).

This 2015 RAND dissertation – Critical Rare Earths, National Security, and U.S.-China Interactions – has proven useful as well as this 2013 report Critical Materials Present Danger to U.S. Manufacturing.

And don’t forget Mission 2016: The Future of Strategic Natural Resources from MIT.



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Stephen Hawking’s Last Scientific Paper

He was working on this – A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation – when he died. For those of us who are not physicists, an explanation in understandable terms can be found hereMany of his other papers are freely available online as well.


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Most Downloaded Documents from the National Academies Press

The NAP is the publishing arm of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. It annually issues hundreds of reports, studies, and analyses on a wide variety of topics. Here is a list of the top twenty downloaded documents ranging from information technology to fostering student success. And they are all free to read!

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How Would Alien Life Forms Develop?

This article, Darwin’s Aliens, uses both theoretical and mechanical models to explain how aliens might evolve. And with some interesting results. The article concludes that “Combining both approaches is the best way to make predictions about the many hundreds, thousands or millions of hypothetical aliens. Now we just need to find them.”

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Feynman Lectures on Physics Online

Richard Feynman, winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics, author of Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: The Adventures of a Curious Character (excerpts here), and a key member of the Rogers Commission investigating the Challenger explosion whose very simple and direct demonstration of the effect of cold temperatures on the O-rings showed him at his brilliant best, compiled a three-volumes opus of his lecture notes; they are now available online for perusal.

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Read Stephen Hawking’s Dissertation Online

Stephen Hawking is just not a character on Big Bang Theory, he is well-known for his far-flung research in the area of physics. His dissertation – Properties of Expanding Universes – has been online for a two days now; it is the most heavily accessed document in Cambridge University’s open access collection, crashing the system intermittently as demand for this item is intense. Here is an article from The Guardian that further elucidates this development, and here is one from the BBC.

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The Moon Once Had an Atmosphere

It may not have been breathable, but it was once surrounded by a blanket of gas. That is according to this recent article – Lunar volcanism produced a transient atmosphere around the ancient Moon – from Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

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