In a find that could help lessen China’s stranglehold on the world’s rare earth mineral supply, Japan announced Friday it had discovered a deposit large enough to supply the needs of its own high-tech industries for more than 200 years.
Nearly 7 million tons of rare earth minerals – used in such items as iPods, wind turbines and electric cars, have been located under the seabed near a far eastern Japanese island, Tokyo University professor Yasuhiro Kato told Agence France-Presse.
The samples, taken from an area near Minamitorishima island, approximately 1,250 miles southeast of Tokyo, contained a substantial amount of the element dysprosium, a rare earth element used in the manufacture of hybrid cars, according to the wire service.
“Specifically on dysprosium, I estimate at least 400 years’ worth of Japan’s current consumption is in the deposits,” said the professor, who examined mud samples taken from the seabed at a depth of around 18,000 feet.
Despite their name, nearly all the 17 elements classified as rare earths elements are relatively plentiful in the Earth’s crust.
However, because of their geochemical properties, rare earth elements are typically dispersed and not often found in concentrated and economically exploitable forms.
China is the world’s largest producer of rare earths, generating more than 97 percent of the world’s supply, according to CNN.
Former New York Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu was found dead in his Southern California home last week, an apparent suicide at age 42.
Irabu’s death ended a troubled life, one complicated by abandonment, alienation and the intense scrutiny many professional athletes face when they make it big.
Robert Whiting, whose 2004 book “The Meaning of Ichiro” examined Irabu’s impact on Japanese ballplayers as well as the pitcher’s struggles in the big leagues, penned a piece for Slate that updated the premise of his earlier work.
It’s not a happy story, as one might image.
The National Hockey League draft still pales in comparison to its NFL and NBA counterparts in terms of popularity, but it gets considerably more attention than it did a generation ago.
Several thousand fans, for example, were on hand for the most recent draft, held this past Friday and Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Compare that to 1974, when the NHL draft was held in secrecy, part of the league’s efforts to hold off the upstart World Hockey Association.
How secret was the 1974 draft? As it neared its conclusion, Buffalo Sabres general manager Punch Imlach had become so bored with the long process of selecting players that he decided to have some fun and sent public relations director Paul Wieland off to find a relatively common Japanese name, according to the Buffalo News.
Live Science ponders the irony of nuclear energy, so potentially dangerous yet remarkably safer than most other energy sources, particularly coal and other fossil fuels, according to columnist Christopher Wanjek.
As an example, Wanjek cites the Japanese nuclear reactor Fukushima Daiichi, damaged in the tsunami that struck the island nation last month and which continues to leak trace amounts of radiation.
Not long after the earthquake and resulting tsunami, radioactive iodine-131 made it into the water supply in Tokyo, 150 miles or so south of the damaged reactor. But most has since decayed into stable xenon, Wanjek writes.
Wanjek says that means that those individuals who evacuated Tokyo because of the threat at Fukushima likely received more radiation on the airplane flight from the Japanese capital than they would have if they had stayed at home.
The quake, which was considerably less powerful than the 9.0 temblor that hit Japan last week, killed an estimated 140,000 Japanese. From the Times:
The earthquake hit in the early afternoon off the coast of Honshu, Japan’s most populous island, triggering unprecedented destruction. Ninety percent of the houses in a score of seaside towns collapsed in seconds. Passenger trains fell off railway bridges and plunged into the sea. A few minutes later, a 35-foot-high tsunami rolled in, sweeping away cars, houses and thousands of people, and burying entire towns in mud. Then came fires, fanned by winds and fueled by flimsy wooden houses, reducing much of what remained to ashes.
The quake leveled the port city of Yokohama and burned down more than 60 percent of Tokyo.
For all you alternative energy advocates who can’t throw away taxpayer dollars fast enough in a quest to “do something” about global warming comes this cautionary tale from the Far East.
None of the Japanese government’s 214 biomass promotion projects — with public funding coming to 6.55 trillion yen — over the past six years has produced effective results in the struggle against global warming, according to an official report released last week, the Japan Times reported.
For those of you who don’t happen to have a yen-to-dollar converter handy, that’s the equivalent of a little less than $79 billion dollars.
Concern over China’s monopoly of rare-earth minerals isn’t necessarily the disaster some believe it may be.
In September, the New York Times reported that China, in a trade tiff with Japan, stopped shipments of rare-earth minerals to its Asian neighbor. China denied this but the Times reported on Sept. 28 the Chinese government, while not admitting the existence of the ban, may have begun rescinding it.
Unless you’re a scientist or a periodic table of elements geek, rare-earth minerals might not strike a chord.
According to Foreign Policy, ”Rare-earth minerals are the 15 elements in that funny box at the bottom of the periodic table – known as lanthanides – plus two others. About 95 percent of global production takes place in China, largely at one huge mining complex in Inner Mongolia.”