Lanthanides

A comic. The scene: a blank patterned background. Character 1 is: a simple cartoon person. Character 2 is: a simple cartoon person.  Character 1: So, rare earth minerals. According to this article I read on the internet, they're critical for manufacturing computers and a whole bunch of other devices. Character 2: Ah yes, the group of elements known in chemistry as the lanthanides. I hear that they are not really rare at all. Character 1: That's true, they're called 'rare' because they don't clump together in 'veins', they are usually mixed in with a bunch of other minerals and dirt and stuff, which makes them difficult to mine. Character 2: How difficult? Character 1: Extremely. The process uses vast amounts of water, destroys huge tracts of countryside, leaves behind tonnes and tonnes of mildly radioactive water that no-one knows how to store, and probably gives people cancer. Character 2: Yikes. It sounds like it would be good to slow down the whole rare-earth-mining thing before it does even more damage. Character 1: Well actually, China did put a limit their rare earth exports for awhile. That was back in 2009. Character 2: Let me guess: the US freaked out about possibly not being able to buy all the tantalum they wanted, and got the World Trade Organisation to twist China's arm to allow unlimited exports. Character 1: Pretty much, yeah. But here's the thing I don't understand: according to this article I read, without rare earths we'd have to build computers 10 times the size they are now. Character 2: Ten times the size. Hmm, that would be an interesting engineering challenge. Character 1: I know, right? I mean sure, computers wouldn't be portable any more, people would have them in their homes. Probably one actual computer per home or office, with several thin clients distributed throughout the building. Character 2: You know that you just committed nerd heresy, right? You can't say you want computers to be bigger. It's... it's just sacrilege! Don't let anyone hear you talk like that. Or if they do, don't tell them that I'm your friend.

CREDITS: Background: Part-tone background 5 by anarres http://foofurple.com/ Public domain. Left character: Cartoon figure by anarres Public domain. Right character: Cartoon figure by anarres Public domain. Mashed-up at foofurple.com/comic/.

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