On Minamitori Island, Japan, an enormous rare-earth mineral deposit has been found. It’s estimated to be enough
– at 16 million tons of ore – to supply industrialized societies for centuries. Elements like yttrium, dysprosium, europium, and terbium are used in products such as smartphone batteries and electric cars. There are few other deposits of rare-earth minerals that are economically viable for mining, meaning Japan will be a major player in the market. Previously, China and the United States had much of the world’s supply.
In the United States, thousands of works of literature and art have begun to enter the public domain. In 1998, Congress extended copyright protections for works created between 1923 and 1977, resulting in a large accumulation of culturally significant works whose rights remained privately controlled. Some attribute the 1998 law to Disney lobbying aimed at protecting Mickey Mouse. Beginning in January and lasting for the next 54 years, classic works by authors including Robert Frost, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton, and Agatha Christie will enter the public domain. Experts anticipate that lower book costs, wider accessibility, and riffs on classic characters will become common.
Near Lake Mercer, Antarctica, scientists drilled through two-thirds of a mile of ice to reach a subglacial lake. The scientists brought 8,000 pounds’ worth of equipment on ice tractors to Lake Mercer on Dec. 19, and by Dec. 26 they had completed a 3,556-foot-deep borehole. It’s only the second subglacial lake to be reached by humans (after nearby Lake Whillans in 2013), and it will provide samples of microbial life in extreme conditions for scientists to study.