Update Corner: Scans and Critical Elements

Quick updates on two items of continuing interest:

First, Science Progress teased me with this message:

It refers to the Yes We Scan proposal I posted about last month.  While the petition on We The People didn’t get the signatures it needed in 30 days, the National Archivist saw fit to respond before the end of the petition period.  That response doubled as the official administration response.  I have not found any indication of what Science Progress was hinting at, but this interview with John Podesta and online interview with Carl Malamud captures the thinking of both men spearheading the effort, and the daunting scope of the efforts ahead.

In other news, Congress continues to grapple with the critical elements challenge by having hearings.  This time a subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held the hearing in December 2011 (H/T American Institute of Physics’ FYI).  The hearing was prompted, at least in part, by a report (Energy Critical Elements: Securing Materials for Emerging Technologies) from the American Physical Society and the Materials Research Society.  Energy Critical Elements is their nomenclature for the kinds of materials I’ve called critical elements, rare earth minerals, or something similar.  In other words, elements important for various kinds of high technology purposes (usually batteries).  Nuclear isotopes are a different class of elements that suffer similar problems of scarcity and production challenges.  The U.S. has gone without much (if any) domestic production capacity.  While the hearing is far from the first on this issue, the new message from this one is that the Department of Energy is continuing to work on addressing the problem.  Given the lack of progress on Congressional legislation in this area, it’s pretty much up to them.