Exhausting The Earth, Ctd.

More

A reader writes:

As a chemist, I was surprised to hear that non-radioactive elements could go extinct.  Well, that's because it isn't true.  They may be more difficult to isolate and purify as we take them from the Earth's crust and store them in televisions and computers but they are still there!


The only elements that can leave the Earth on a permanent basis are non-stable isotopes (like Uranium 235) and gasses that are buoyant (they leave the atmosphere and are lost into space). The only gas I know of that we are running out of is Helium.  That is problematic but Gallium and Indium are not leaving earth any time soon.

We will find ways to recycle everything eventually.  We really have no choice in the matter.  When you throw something away you can take comfort that you are not preventing recycling you are just delaying it for a few years.

Of course one is not destroying an an element by placing it in a product. Still, recycling takes money and, at least at first blush, extracting trace amounts of gallium from TV sets doesn't seem like it would be economically viable.

Jump to comments

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down