Rare Earth Elements

“Oil is the blood; steel is the body; but rare earth elements are the vitamins of a modern society.” While many of us can’t even pronounce elements such as praseodymium, yttrium, or gadolinium, these minerals drive our technology and our modern lifestyles. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill “common” Earth elements, these are the “rare” earth elements. But… they aren’t actually that rare. And their importance to modern life goes well beyond their unusual geology. On this episode, professor Julie Klinger speaks with producer Miles Traer about the geo-politics of rare earth elements, why they are considered rare, and the extreme lengths to which some people are planning to go in search of them.
 

Image by Materialscientist
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Generic

Additional music in this episode provided by Kevin MacLeod
Inspired by Kevin MacLeod
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

THIS EPISODE WAS PRODUCED BY LESLIE CHANG, MIKE OSBORNE, AND MILES TRAER.

Scars of the past

Beneath Cambodia’s troubled history with the Khmer Rouge lies a complex agricultural legacy that reaches back centuries. Once the symbol of a thriving region, we see how a prolonged El Nino brought drought and increased human conflict, and how the ruthless Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge looked back to the temples at Angkor Wat and their proud agricultural heritage to motivate the atrocities of the Cambodian genocide. Producer Miles Traer speaks with mental health and water science experts to see how hundreds of years of agriculture have shaped the region. Traer shares his own thoughts on the relationship between food and conflict, and how he sees the standard historical narrative breaking down within Cambodia’s borders.

THIS EPISODE WAS PRODUCED BY LESLIE CHANG, MIKE OSBORNE, AND MILES TRAER.

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The dawn of de-extinction

Hank Greely and Jake Sherkow discuss the science, morals, and ethics of de-extinction: bringing extinct species back to life.  As lawyers with an interest in biotechnologies, Hank and Jake explain how they first got involved with de-extinciton, how scientists propose to bring species back, and discuss the potential for de-extinction technology to help restore damaged ecosystems.  While discussing some potential side effects of this new process, Hank and Jake recall how a man obsessed with William Shakespeare transformed the ecosystem of New England, and how de-extinction might do the same.

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