Friday, June 18, 2021

The U.S. Federal Reserve kept its target range for interest rates unchanged at 0% to 0.25% at the end of a two-day policy meeting

The Fed announced plans to increase these rates by the end of 2023, sooner than expected. The Fed has held a target range for interest rates at 0% to 0.25% since the start of the pandemic. In March, the Fed forecast it would maintain current rates until at least 2024. However, investors worldwide have expected an increase to the target range for most of 2021, particularly since U.S. inflation hit 5% in May. The Fed signaled two rate hikes in 2023 at yesterday’s meeting, which would likely take the target rate to 0.6% by the end of 2023. The sooner-than-expected rate hike is attributed to a faster pandemic recovery, vaccine rollout, and a surging inflation rate. (Yahoo News)


China has launched three astronauts into orbit to build its new space station over the next three months

The mission, called Shenzhou-12, will be China’s longest-ever human-crewed mission and its first in nearly five years. Under Shenzhou-12, astronauts will bring Tianhe, a module of China’s new space station, into service. Tianhe is a 22.5-ton component of an eventual 70-ton space station China is attempting to build. It is the first and the largest of three modules and was launched into orbit in April. Shenzhou-12 is the third of an estimated 11 missions required to build the station, which will be called Tiangong. If successful, it will be China’s first full-fledged space station and include living quarters, science labs, and a Hubble-class telescope. (The Guardian)


Cosmic Mystery Solved

Astronomers have solved a years-long mystery, according to a study published yesterday, revealing why one of the sky’s brightest stars dimmed over the past year. Referred to as Betelgeuse, located on the right shoulder of the constellation Orion, the star periodically dims by about a quarter of its intensity every 425 days. Last February, the red supergiant baffled observers when it lost roughly two-thirds of its brightness. The dimming fueled speculation the star was in the process of becoming a supernova, the explosive process certain stars undergo when they die. New high-resolution images reveal the mechanism is more mundane, expelled, cooled gas likely condensed into dust, blocking light coming from the star. (Nature)


Algorithm enhances the resolution of atomic force microscopy, an imaging technique capable of revealing atomic-level details of objects like proteins and material surfaces 

Scientists at Weill Cornell Medicine have developed a computational technique that greatly increases the resolution of atomic force microscopy, a specialized type of microscope that “feels” the atoms at a surface. The method reveals atomic-level details on proteins and other biological structures under normal physiological conditions, opening a new window on cell biology, virology and other microscopic processes. In a study, the investigators describe the new technique, which is based on a strategy used to improve resolution in light microscopy. To study proteins and other biomolecules at high resolution, investigators have long relied on two techniques: X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy. While both methods can determine molecular structures down to the resolution of individual atoms, they do so on molecules that are either scaffolded into crystals or frozen at ultra-cold temperatures, possibly altering them from their normal physiological shapes. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) can analyze biological molecules under normal physiological conditions, but the resulting images have been blurry and low resolution. Imaging individual molecules as they carry out their functions could open entirely new types of analysis. Besides allowing researchers to study biological molecules under physiologically relevant conditions, the new method has other advantages. (


Should you be funny at work?

They say laughter is the best medicine, but does that apply to the workplace? Some strategist say “yes” because being funnier in a work setting helps us think more creatively, build relationships and also helps us get what we want. Sharing a laugh can also help create a feeling of closeness and trust, although there are key pitfalls to avoid. (Yahoo Finance)


Antitrust bills target Big Tech

Five antitrust bills were introduced recently in the House of Representatives. They will be marked up in committee to consider changes and then voted on by the panel to decide whether the full House should vote on the measures. These bills, one of which would force companies to sell businesses, have attracted the most opposition. Some pro-tech groups have said they could mean the end of popular promotions like Amazon Prime free shipping and iMessage in iPhones. In addition to the two bills aimed at conflict of interest in platforms’ businesses, a third bill would require a platform to refrain from any merger unless it can show the acquired company does not compete with any product or service the platform is in. A fourth would require platforms to allow users to transfer their data elsewhere, including to a competing business. (Reuters)


Quit rates soar as pandemic wanes

Predictions of a “Great Resignation” appear to be coming to pass, with the share of workers leaving jobs at 2.7% in April — the highest level in more than 20 years, according to United States Labor Department data. The elevated quit rate is a stark contrast to a year ago, when workers were focused on job security during the pandemic. Economists say employee churn is a sign of a healthy labor market and higher worker confidence as people leave for better prospects, even during a still-shaky economic recovery. (The Wall Street Journal)


UPDATE: Space ride with Bezos goes for $28 Million Dollars

A mystery bidder has agreed to pay $28 million to ride into space with Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos. Some 7,600 people from 159 countries are said to have registered for the opportunity and were able to bid. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has been testing New Shepherd, the rocket set to take him, his brother and the unnamed bidder into space, for about a decade. Its 15th uncrewed test flight went off without a hitch in April. The 11-minute suborbital flight is scheduled for takeoff on July 20. (The New York Post)


Airlines, banks hit by web glitch

Ongoing “website system issues” are affecting several airlines, including Southwest, United, and Virgin Australia. The outage comes just as nearly 300 Southwest Airlines flights were canceled again earlier this week and over 500 were delayed as a result of “nationwide computer issues.” The problems, which affected thousands of customers, began with an issue with a weather data supplier. After that was resolved, the airline’s own technological problems caused it to cancel or delay many flights, and spillover from that issue caused Wednesday’s problems, the airline said. (CNN)


Women are postponing parenting

A decline in U.S. fertility has been led by young women, with those in their 20s seeing a 30% drop in births over the past decade. The biggest clue to why is where the rates fell fastest in metro regions with the best educational and job opportunities. Fewer unplanned pregnancies, higher levels of education and professional growth have all factored into the development, but just as prevalent are the paucity of parental support policies in the United States, along with workplace expectations for around-the-clock availability. (The New York Times)


Scientists are teaching drones to hunt down human screams

Engineers at Germany’s Fraunhofer FKIE institute have built a drone prototype designed to find people by detecting human screams and listening for other signs of distress. One of the lead engineers showcased their progress last week at an annual conference hosted by the Acoustic Society of America. While it’s easy to imagine human-seeking drones in a sci-fi horror movie, the gadget would be ideal for post-disaster scenarios, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and wildfires. They could hover over an area that rescue crews have difficulty getting to and pinpoint where people may be trapped. (Washington Post)


Chinese scientists get male rats to give birth by conjoining them with females and transplanting a uterus in ‘vile Frankenscience’ study

A male rat in China has given birth by Caesarean section after a ‘vile’ experiment that involved joining it to a female rat and transplanting a uterus. Scientists have not said what implication this would have for humans, but previous studies have explored the possibility of transplanting a uterus into transgender women. The team, from the Naval Medical University in Shanghai, were inspired to see if an embryo could survive in a ‘male uterus’ by male seahorses who give birth. They joined a male and female rat together by attaching their skin and sharing blood between the two halves of the new pairing, then transplanting a uterus into the male half and implanting embryos into both male and female rats. The embryos were allowed to develop to term, that is 21.5 days, with ten successful pups out of 27 ‘normal’ embryos in the male delivered by Caesarean section. Those surviving to term went on to live into adulthood and were able to reproduce, suffering no wider ill effects to heart, lung or liver, the team explained. The study may have ‘a profound impact on reproductive biology,’ the team said, adding ‘a mammalian animal model of male pregnancy was constructed by us.’ (Daily Mail)


Windows 11 has leaked

Windows 10 was supposed to be Microsoft’s ultimate PC operating system. The promise: Windows 10 would forever get updated twice a year, bringing tweaks, the occasional fresh coat of paint and new features to keep your computer up to date, but now, six years later, Windows 11 is on its way. We can only assume Microsoft ot bored, because what we’ve seen so far of Windows 11 doesn’t feel like anything revolutionary. A complete internal version of Windows 11 has leaked online. You can download it from some sketchy websites, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Still, it’s there, and it appears legit. Based on the leak, Windows 11 is full of mostly small visual changes:

  • The taskbar icons are centered, giving Windows a decidedly MacOS look;
  • The Start menu ditches live tiles for pinned apps;
  • We’ve got a new Windows logo: four equal-sized rectangles instead of the trapezoid Microsoft has been using for Windows since the 2012 release of Windows 8;
  • All the Windows icons have been redesigned with a more colorful gradient and a slightly more 3D appearance;
  • Windows will have rounded corners;
  • When you click the maximize button, you get options about how you want to lock the window in place, side by side with another app, a grid of three or a grid of four;
  • New wallpapers;
  • And Windows 11 is bringing back the startup jingle (the first since Windows 7).

Microsoft will reportedly update the Microsoft Store, but that wasn’t featured in the version of Windows 11 that leaked. (The Verge)


Finally Feel Good Friday Shows Off With:

  • Autistic Pride Day
  • Black America’s Day of Repentence
  • Clark Kent’s Birthday (Superman)
  • Dollars Against Diabetes Day(s) (Always Father’s Day Weekend)
  • Flip Flop Day (3rd Friday)
  • Go Fishing Day
  • International Sushi Day
  • Jack Herer Day
  • Splurge Day
  • Sustainable Gasteronomy Day
  • Take Back The Lunch Break Day (3rd Friday)
  • Ugliest Dog Day (Third Friday)
  • Wear Blue Day (Friday of Men’s Health Week)
  • Work@Home Father’s Day (Friday Before Father’s Day)
  • Wanna Get Away Day


Historical Events

  • 1264 – The Parliament of Ireland meets at Castledermot in County Kildare, the first definitively known meeting of this Irish legislature.
  • 1887 – The Reinsurance Treaty between Germany and Russia is signed.
  • 1908 – The University of the Philippines is established.
  • 1928 – Aviator Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly in an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean (she is a passenger; Wilmer Stultz is the pilot and Lou Gordon the mechanic).
  • 1930 – Groundbreaking ceremonies for the Franklin Institute are held.
  • 1935 – Police in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada clash with striking longshoremen, resulting in a total 60 injuries and 24 arrests.
  • 1940 – Appeal of June 18 by Charles de Gaulle.
  • 1972 – Staines air disaster – 118 are killed when a plane crashes two minutes after take off from London Heathrow Airport.
  • 2006 – The first Kazakh space satellite, KazSat is launched.
  • 2009 – The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a NASA robotic spacecraft is launched.