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Alex King is director of the Critical Materials Institute, a part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory. CMI is heavily involved in making rare earth minerals slightly less rare by means of supercomputer analysis; researchers there are approaching the ongoing crunch by looking both for substitute materials for things like gallium, indium, and tantalum, and easier ways of separating out the individual rare earths (a difficult process). One team there is working with "ligands – molecules that attach with a specific rare-earth – that allow metallurgists to extract elements with minimal contamination from surrounding minerals" to simplify the extraction process. We'll be talking with King soon; what questions would you like to see posed? (This 18-minute TED talk from King is worth watching first, as is this Q&A.)
The Japanese woman is fine and her retinal implant remains in place. Researchers around the world are now hoping to test other stem-cell-derived tissues in therapy. Dr. Jeanne Loring from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., expects to get approval within a few years to see whether neurons derived from stem cells can be used to treat Parkinson's disease."
"Games taught me to think fast and stay calm." CIS says he barely got his degree in mechanical engineering, having devoted most of college to the fantasy role-playing game Ultima Online. Holed up in his bedroom, he spent days on end roaming the game's virtual universe, stockpiling weapons, treasure and food. He calls this an early exercise in building and protecting assets. Wicked keyboard skills were a must. He memorized more than 100 key-stroke shortcuts — control-A to guzzle a healing potion or shift-S to draw a sword, for example — and he could dance between them without taking his eyes off the screen. "Some people can do it, some can't," he says with a shrug. But the game taught a bigger lesson: when to cut and run. "I was a pretty confident player, but just like in the real world, the more opponents you have, the worse your chances are," he says. "You lose nothing by running." That's how he now plays the stock market. CIS says he bets wrong four out of 10 times. The trick is to sell the losers fast while letting the winners ride. "Self-control is so important. You have to conserve your assets. That's what insulates you from the downturns and gives you the ammunition to make money."