Setting off speculation that China is manipulating exports to punish certain trade partners, Beijing announced in July it was slashing its six-month export quota of so-called 'rare earths' by 72 percent. Speculation continued this week with reports of an expanding embargo of the minerals. But the so-called "rare earths" are neither rare nor does China have a lock on them. Although China produces 97 percent of the world's rare earths, it contains only 30 percent of the world's supply. The United States, Russia, and Australia all have significant reserves of the 17 elements essential in semiconducters, lasers, and other high-tech gadgets. While mining them has proved uneconomical at usual world prices and environmentally harmful, that may be changing. Click through the following slides to read how rare earths are important to your daily life.
Orionid meteor shower will conclude Thursday night as the Earth finishes traversing through the debris field that follows Halley's Comet.
Monitor readers share their favorite book picks.
Astronomers, aiming a ground-based telescope at a target spotted by the Hubble in space, confirm the find as the oldest galaxy so far. Its light was emitted at a time when hydrogen and helium fog still filled the universe.
A boy plays in front of his flooded house in downtown of Ha Tinh city, Ha Tinh province, Vietnam.
Utilities may close up to 1 in 5 coal-fired power plants after tougher EPA air pollution rules go into effect next year, Wall Street investment banker Credit Suisse recently reported. Coal power is losing its price edge to natural gas, too.
Comet Hartley 2 will make its closest approach to Earth tomorrow, and is best viewed with binoculars or a low-magnification telescope.
More than 8,000 teens voted for their favorite book of last year in a contest sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association. What made the list?
This infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the broken Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachm ann 3 skimming along a trail of debris left during its multiple trips around the sun. The flame-like objects are the comet's fragments and their tails, while the dusty comet trail is the line bridging the fragments.
This false-color image shows the incredible, complex beauty of Saturn's rings. The massive ring system is over 150,000 miles in diameter.