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A radioactive waste standoff and science’s debt to the slave trade

Science Podcast
James Petiver, 1695

A single factory in Malaysia supplies about 10% of the world’s rare earth oxides, used in everything from cellphones to lasers to missiles. Controversy over the final resting place for the slightly radioactive byproducts has pushed the plant to the brink of closure. Host Meagan Cantwell talks with freelance writer Yao Hua Law about calls to ship the waste back to where it was originally mined in Australia, and how stopping production in Malaysia would mean almost all rare earth production would take place in China. 

In another global trade story, host Sarah Crespi talks with freelance writer Sam Kean about close links between the slave trade and early naturalists’ efforts to catalog the world’s flora and fauna. Today, historians and museums are just starting to come to grips with the often-ignored relationships between slavers and scientists.

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

Download the transcript (PDF)

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[Image: James Petiver, 1695; Music: Jeffrey Cook]