January 15, 2010


Filed under: Humour, Media, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:56

For the last 30 years, I’ve devoted the better part of my life to frightening you, trying my best to make you believe that you are weak, vulnerable, dependent and at risk. I know what’s good for you. You don’t. I’ve tried hard for three decades to defy the laws of nature and return you to infancy, cradled in your mommy’s arm, suckling at her breast, all warm and cozy, not a care in the world. I am the tip of the spear of the liberal nanny state. I am ANCHORMAN!

An Anonymous Anchorman, “Secrets of TV news: Confessions of an anchorman”, The Daily Call, 2010-01-15

Why China won’t be able to corner the rare earth market

Filed under: China, Economics, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:36

Tim Worstall looks at the importance of rare earth to the modern electronics industry, and why China’s ongoing attempt to corner the market won’t work in the long run:

The Chinese government is trying to corner the rare earths market and that isn’t good news for the tech business. Those with good memories of Chemistry O Level will know what the rare earths are: the funny little line of elements from Lanthanum to Lutetium at the bottom of the periodic table, along with Yttrium and Scandium, which we usually add to the list.

The reason we like them in the tech business is because they’re what enables us to make a lot of this tech stuff that is the business. You can’t run fibre optic cables without your Erbium repeaters, Europium, Terbium and Yttrium are all used to make the coloured dots in CRTs, the lens on your camera phone is 25 per cent Lanthanum oxide (yes, really, glass is made of metal oxides) and without Neodimium and Dysprosium we’d not have permanent magnets: no hard drives nor iPod headphones.

[. . .] it is still true that we get all of them – apart from Scandium, which is a rather different little beastie – from the same ore. In fact, we tend to get them not just from the same ore, but from the same mine: Bautou in Inner Mongolia (that’s the Chinese part, not the independent country).

And that’s where our problems really start. Over the past couple of decades China has been cracking down on small mines, usually in the name of environmental policy. That even may have been the real reason, as rare earth mines can be messy things. The outcome is that now 95 per cent of the earth’s supply comes from this one mining complex and the Chinese Government has just announced export restrictions.

So, if they have a monopoly on 95% of the world supply, why won’t it hold up? Because in spite of the name, they’re not as rare as all that . . . and there are substitutions that can be made for some or all of the current application needs. By restricting the supply and/or driving up the price, China will spur new competitors to enter the field and new sources of rare earths to be developed. In the short term, it will definitely create price increases (which, of course, will be passed on to the consumer), but in the medium-to-long term they will create a vibrant competitive marketplace which will almost inevitably drive the prices down below current levels.

Isn’t economics fascinating?

Among it’s other cool features, the iPhone can help you survive in the wilderness

Filed under: Humour, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:24

Well, sort of:

If you scan the list of top iPhone apps, you might be forgiven for thinking that the device, like adolescence, is mostly for playing videogames, making rude noises and connecting to Facebook.

However, a more thorough examination of the digital delectables on offer in the app store will reveal that, far from being merely a plaything that receives phone calls — as long as you don’t live in rural Montana or my neighborhood — the iPhone is actually a hard-core survival tool.

Imagine that you’re stranded on your stock desert island, charged with surviving until the Globetrotters, your superiors at FedEx or the Smoke Monster finds you. And suppose that, for some reason, this island is equipped with a USB port for charging.

Well, then, as long as you have your trusty iPhone, you needn’t fear hypothermia, malaria or starvation. You just need the right apps. Let’s take a look, shall we?

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