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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hey Mr. Fancy Science Guy

posted by on July 2 at 11:17 AM

How tha hell’m I s’posed ta watch all muh fave cop shows when all the, uh, ind-yum is gone?

Armin Reller, a materials chemist at the University of Augsburg in Germany, estimates that in 10 years the world will run out of indium, used for making liquid-crystal displays for flat-screen televisions and computer monitors. He also predicts that the world will run out of zinc by 2037, and hafnium, an increasingly important part of computer chips, by 2017.

Other articles about rapidly consumed rare elements have been gathered in a convenient scare-blog at Slashdot, and the guy doesn’t slouch on copper stories either. The supply may be somewhat greater than these articles let on—Golob?—but if these timeframes are anywhere near legit, lots of alternative power sources listed in these articles (fuel cells, solar panels, even nuclear) may soon need their own alternatives.

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I see a huge future industry in mining landfills for these elements.

Posted by flamingbanjo | July 2, 2008 11:27 AM

Not to worry Sam, the good people at ADM, Supermarket to the World, are hard at working developing ways to synthesize Indy-yum and other valuable commodities from corn--yummy, renewable corn!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 2, 2008 11:31 AM

zinc is recyclable and therefore won't "run out" in 2037.

Posted by holz | July 2, 2008 11:32 AM

snooze. watch wall*e instead

Posted by uhmmm | July 2, 2008 11:33 AM


Yah, but no recycling process yields 100% of the original substance. A lot of that (or at least some of that) is lost in energy or other byproducts. We definitely have to work on improving our yields of reclaimed materieal if we want to keep making certain products.

Mining garbage dumps isn't that far off. Mabe we'll have to fight the third-world countries to which we export all of our garbage. Garbage wars!

Posted by bearseatbeats | July 2, 2008 11:52 AM

This is not a problem. First of all we can recycle our electronics and get most of the metals back. So we aren't going to run out in the near future (less than 50 years).

By then all you need to do is tow a near earth asteroid or two into orbit and problem solved.

Posted by Andrew | July 2, 2008 12:09 PM

I guess this explains why we are currently filling huge barges with "non-recyclable" castoff junk to send to China on a daily basis. They're quietly stealing our halfnium!

Posted by Just Sayin' | July 2, 2008 12:11 PM

@6, oh man, that's awesome. "all we need to do" is to simply tow an asteroid in... that would end well!

good thing that's never going to be within the human race's technological ability

Posted by ha ha ha | July 2, 2008 12:14 PM

Dear GOD! (clutch pearls) we MUST create Sustainable Entertainment Technologies PRONTO!

Posted by Andy Niable | July 2, 2008 1:07 PM

Dammit, it looks like I'm going to have to go back to watching television on punch-cards.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 2, 2008 1:16 PM

By 2037, it is entirely possible we will be actively mining the Moon and Mars, if not other rocky bodies in this system. Our system is "unusual" in that we have a lot of metal in the rocky bodies here (and the Sun has a lot of metal, too), which is probably because our planetary disc accreted from the supernova of another, previous star. So we can also eventually look to mining Mercury and Venus and the asteroids, if not the moons of Jupiter.

Posted by Simac | July 2, 2008 1:23 PM

We're going to mine the ocean floor for all this stuff in the next 50 years. Which will be expensive enough that the disposable lifestyle will still have to end.

But do go see Wall-E. It's wonderful.

Posted by elenchos | July 2, 2008 1:33 PM

You know, if they just recycled the monitors like they supposedly do, and made them for easy recycling, this would NOT be an issue.

Which, given the regs in the EU and Canada and Japan, they're going to have to do anyway ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 2, 2008 1:44 PM

oh, and zinc is a byproduct of the smelter up in Trail BC so we ain't running out of that anytime soon. Nor is the hydro used to run it, scrub the emissions, and clean it.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 2, 2008 1:49 PM

The moon has all these things in abundance. The procees of getting us there is already started. We will be mining the moon within ten to fifteen years. It also has helium three. Rare on earth but plentiful on the moon, it is an excellent fuel source.

Posted by Vince | July 2, 2008 2:58 PM

Moon colony, baby!

All those pre-pubescent years of reading Heinlein are finally going to pay off....!

Posted by Justin | July 2, 2008 3:32 PM

Aw come on, by that time we can just use our deuterium-fed replicators to gin up any element we want.

Posted by K | July 2, 2008 4:09 PM

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