World of Steel Imports and Exports allows us to remap the world making different countries scaled by various metrics (population, GPD, internet users, etc).

For example, this shows which countries are the biggest steel importers;

Map with countries scaled by steel imports.

Map with countries scaled by steel imports.

And this is the countries scaled by steel exports;

Map with countries scaled by steel exports.

Map with countries scaled by steel exports.

Prof. Hans Rosling has made other data and analysis tools available at I talked about that here:

Iron replaces Rare Earth in Hitachi motor

Rare earth elements
Rare earth metals have become increasingly strategic since the 2002 closure of the Mountain Pass open-pit mine in California USA leaving Chinese producers with 95% of market. The mine was closed due to low price of rare earth elements and environmental restrictions due to production of high amounts of toxic and radioactive thorium and radium contaminated waste water (the mine was discovered by a uranium prospector due to high radioactivity). Chinese productions has become increasing centralised and regulated to ensure supply to Chinese industry and to restrict pollution in China. Producers in other countries have warned that green technologies (like motors for wind generators, solar cell production) are reliant on the use of rare-earth elements.

Rare Earth Production in 1000’s of tonnes (Original Source USGS))

Mountain Pass production is being re-initiated with $500 million dollars spent to reopen and expand the mine (money raised by initial public offering of Molycorp) and was expected to be in full production by mid-2012.

On September 22, 2010 China quietly enacted a ban on exports of rare-earths to Japan, which also produces a small amount of rare earth elements itself. Recently China has policy of reducing exports of rare earth and consolidating mining into state-owned companies. Other countries have protested these moves, but China cites environmental reasons which is an exception under World Trade Organisation agreements (China Joined in Nov 2001). I think there case is strengthened by the fact that only 35% of proven reserves of rare earth elements are in China but 95-97% of production takes place there. According to UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, companies which process rare earth materials deal with processing of rare earth materials may face shortages, but since China seems happy to export products made from rare earth materials, like motors, companies making electric vehicles or wind turbines are not yet alarmed. Neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium can be used in motors. Currently 4% of motors used in wind turbines use rare-earths but the figure is anticipated to rise.

What are rare earth elements
Rare earth elements are usually regarded as the lanthanides, scandium and yttrium, as all exhibit similar chemical properties. Global production is around 124,000 tonnes in oxide form.
Major mining initiatives are under-way in reopening of Mountain Pass, and two sites in Australia; Mount Weld and Nolans. Each expected to produce 20,000 tonnes annually by 2013/2014.

Element Example Applications
Scandium metal alloys for the aerospace industry
Lanthanum batteries, catalysts for petroleum refining
Cerium catalysts, polishing, metal alloys
Praseodymium improved magnet corrosion resistance, pigment
Neodymium high power magnets for laptops, lasers
Promethium beta radiation source
Samarium high temperature magnets, reactor control rods
Europium liquid crystal displays, fluorescent lighting
Gadolinium magnetic resonance imaging contrast agent
Terbium phosphors for lighting and display
Dysprosium high power magnets, lasers
Holmium highest power magnets known
Erbium lasers, glass colourant
Thulium ceramic magnetic materials under development
Ytterbium fibre optic technology, solar panels
Lutetium X-ray phosphors

Table: Applications of Rare-Earths, Source: Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, Note No. 368, 2011.

Replacement or Rare-Earths

Not all motors rely on rare earth magnets, or on permanent magnets for their operation. Japan have previously announced replacement of non-rare earth based magnets, Tesla Motors are an example of a company which has opted for induction motors for their electric vehicles (should necessitate use of inverter to produce AC current).

Recently Hitachi have announced the development of a new motor with an iron core based on a proprietary amorphous metal. This means the core of the motor will be ferromagnetic rather than a permanent magnet and the amorphous metal is able to switch magnetisation with low hysteresis losses.

How to make UK a developing country again?

So many times on the radio or in new papers you will see reference to `developed’ and `developing countries’. This at best is a lazy description, since we are only considering the economies. In g.c.s.e geography I learned that we should call these as economically more developed and economically less developed countries.

I really hate the term `developed country’, how will we have any growth/change in the economy if it can’t develop?

Any idea how to make UK a developing country, ideally without destroying too much whatever progress we made in the past?

Earnings and sector of employment in UK cities


future 2

You can see what HSBC think is the answer here (future of business). Pictures above will be explained, lots of new business should be developed in Cambridge… bio, nano, plastics, etc.

Accuracy of digitising graphs

I digitised the following image using plot digitiser, which is a java program for getting numeric data from images. The horizontal image is scaled from 0-200 and is around 1272 pixels in length, this was acquired using print screen from pdf version of paper. I viewed the image on a flat–screen computer monitor (HPCompaq LA2505wg) with no additional magnification. The positions of the ordinate values are known so can be used to assess the accuracy of digitising as shown in the second image.

So in this case maximum error in measurement was around 0.5% of fullscale. Error across the measurements looks to be systematic so might have more to do with positioning of calibration markers than finding and clicking centers of the data points.

Copy files, preserve dates and permissions in unix

tar and feathers

This is a way to copy files in unix and keep the same time stamps, using the tar package:

tar cf – . | (cd wherever; tar -xvf -)

change directory to path of USB stick and use:
tar cf – . | (cd /space/BACKUP/UDISK/;tar -xvf -)

kitchen rysnc

This is a another way to make a copy of a directory, the same command can be used again later to update the copy with any new files from the target directory:

rsync -va directory ~/BACKUP

rsync -va /media/MJP_8GB_Ext2/mathew/ /space/BACKUP/8GB-disk/

Read an rysnc how to.

Using GSAS and EXPGUI in debian

EXPGUI is a graphical interface for the GSAS software, allowing structural refinement using the Reitveld technique.

EXPGUI/GSAS can be downloaded in binary form from

You need to install tcl/tk and also blt all of which can be found in debian package repositories. (Or whatever for your system!)

in debian:
apt-get tk8.4 blt

tcl/tk is the scripting language used to write EXPGUI.
failing to install blt will result in the error “Error — Unable to load the BLT package; cannot run liveplot”.

Accessing Papers from University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge news feed had notified about the new use of Raven Passwords to access electronic resources.

The ATHENS system of controlling access to networked services has been centrally funded as a national service for many years. That funding is being withdrawn by the JISC in favour of national Federated Access Control based on local user login.

ATHENS handles around 3 million users and 250 online services but it is a purely UK solution to providing access to remote services. The JISC have established that a
Federated solution using open source software and international standards will lead to a Single Sign On system with an individual using their institutional login to use both national and local services. This will also tie in with strategies for e-learning and e-science.

Raven is the web authentication system administered by University of Cambridge Computing Service.