About the blog: What Things Are Made Of


The United States relies on imports for dozens of commodities in everyday use. Often enough, that reliance is 100%. In this book I aim to provide awareness of the hidden geology and mineralogy behind common things, and to develop an appreciation for the global resource distribution that underpins our society. While concerns about oil import reliance are in the news every day, our needs for other minerals are comparable and are typically unknown even to technologically aware Americans.

Friday, December 18, 2009

About the book

What does an emery board’s rough surface tell us about Africa’s million-years-long collision with Europe? Should an angler worry about the source of the platinum he or she relies on in casting a nylon line? What ancient life form gives us filters for beer? How much of an "American" car is built using minerals imported from elsewhere?

These are the kinds of questions addressed in What Things Are Made Of.

Quote from the book:
Contrast media in medical diagnostic imaging contain as much as 60% iodine, familiar as a disinfectant. Chile’s northern deserts harbor nitrate-rich deposits that also rank as the world’s largest supplies of iodine, even though only about 0.05% of the ore is calcium iodate, Ca(IO3)2.

Fact: In 2005, the U.S. imported 72% of the iodine it consumed.

Quiz: Which of the following do you think the U.S. is self-sufficient in (that is, the U.S. is a net exporter)? Gold, bauxite (aluminum ore), nickel, tungsten. Answer next time!

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