No one has managed to pluck valuable minerals from an asteroid quite yet, but when they do, the legal framework will be firmly in place: earlier today, President Obama signed the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA) into law. »
Corporations aren’t inherently evil, they’re only as greedy as the humans behind them. It’s the same thing with robots. Robots have no emotions—they’re just a pile of metal, screws and circuits—but they will be as mean, selfish, and avaricious as the people programming them. »
President Obama is in Alaska this week. There, he plans to hike up a glacier, then shoot an episode of Running Wild with Bear Grylls. That should be fun. Elsewhere, REI has discovered Instagram and LA’s own millennial miner is in legal trouble. This is What’s New Outside.
This time of year kayaks and inner tubes crowd the crystal-clear waters of the Animas River, which flows through the western Colorado city of Durango. Last night, the river was quickly abandoned as one million gallons of wastewater seeping from a local mine slowly trickled downstream, eventually coloring the entire… »
Diamonds you’re familiar with. Pandanus candelabrum, not so much. And until recently, botanists didn’t pay much attention to this rare, palm-like plant from West Africa either. But the discovery that P. candelabrum grows only over rock that may harbor diamonds has vaulted the plant out of obscurity.
Rare earth elements are hard-to-find metals that we need for batteries, solar cells and electronics. These days, they’re mostly mined and processed in China. But it wasn’t always so. The history of rare earth elements is surprising, and some of it even takes place in America’s backyard. In fact, there is still a rare… »
If you ever wondered how much land mass had to be moved to produce that diamond engagement ring, this series of photos should help put things in perspective. »
It’s not something anyone likes to think about, but your smartphone—or your laptop, or the battery in your hybrid car—created a huge amount of toxic and radioactive waste. And now we know what happens to that waste in the long term. It returns to the earth, mingles with sludge, and finds its way into clay pots. »
Precious minerals make the modern world go 'round—they're used in everything from circuit boards to tableware. They're also some of the most toxic materials known to science, and excavating them has proved so dangerous over the years, some have been phased out of industrial production altogether. »
Building empires takes money. And building industrial empires takes diamonds, not just for cash, but for the machines and tools that need them to operate. In a remote corner of Siberia, the Mir diamond mine was responsible for funneling diamonds into building the USSR—and it left behind a pit that stretches almost a… »
Pity the poor mapmaker assigned to the South China Sea. The hotly disputed waters in the Pacific are torn between competing claims from all the countries that surround it. China, especially, has been aggressive and sly. It's now dumping sand onto small reefs and shoals, building whole new islands to bolster its… »
For the first time in its history, a single user has begun to provide over half the computational power used to mine the digital coins. But with much of Bitcoin's security stemming from its decentralized structure, that could prove a large security risk. »
Engineers have done some pretty remarkable things in the past 200 years. But some of the most exciting have taken place entirely underground. From the digging of the NYC subway system to the Yucca Mountain tunnels, these machines are responsible for boring entire worlds below our feet. »