Archive for November, 2018
President Trump's tariffs on rare-earth metals from China should have been a boon to the only US rare-earth minerals mine in California. But a recent Wall Street Journal article illustrates that, given the complex nature of the global economy, those tariffs have actually put the Mountain Pass mine in a tough place.
A hedge fund recently bought Mountain Pass out of bankruptcy after several companies attempted to turn a profit from it. Six months later, the WSJ wrote, Trump announced tariffs that should have helped the mine supply more domestic rare-earths at a higher price.
However, most of the world's rare-earth processing facilities are in China, which also produces more than 90 percent of the world's rare-earth minerals. To develop its metals as cheaply as possible, Mountain Pass has first been shipping its ore to China, where the processed metals are then sold on the world market to makers of smartphones, laptops, and magnets that go into electric car motors and giant wind turbines.
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Animators will now be able to precisely control how microscopic particles interact with light in their renderings of objects, thanks to a research collaboration between computer scientists at Dartmouth University and staff scientists at Pixar and Disney. The team will describe this new work next week at the SIGGRAPH Asia event in Tokyo, Japan; a paper is also forthcoming in the journal Transactions on Graphics.
The breakthrough will allow animation artists more creative leeway when designing the look of various objects by giving them the ability to customize the way light travels through them. It should have the biggest impact on renderings of so-called "volumetric materials"—clouds, fog, mist, skin, or marble statues, for instance. (Marble is a material that reflects some light off the surface but allows some to pass through, giving it a translucent appearance.)
"There is a whole range of dramatically different appearances that artists just couldn't explore until now," said Dartmouth co-author Wojciech Jarosz. "Previously, artists basically had one control that could affect the appearance of a cloud. Now it's possible to explore a vastly richer palette of possibilities, a change that is as dynamic as the transition from black-and-white images to color."