Will We Soon Be Flying Solar Planes?

A solar-powered plane has just made a third successful test flight in the United Arab Emirates. The Solar Impulse 2 will now take off on a global trip, possibly within the next week. The solar plane was developed by Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg. The world tour will see the plane fly from Abu Dhabi to Muscat in Oman before crossing the Arabian Sea to India. It will then head on to Myanmar, China, Hawaii and New York. The longest single leg will see a pilot fly the plane non-stop for five days and nights across the Pacific between Nanjing in China and Hawaii – a distance of over 5,200 miles. In total, the round-the-world trip will require about 25 days of total flying time.​ ​Landings are also earmarked for the midwestern United States and either southern Europe or north Africa, depending on weather conditions. The plane is the successor to Solar Impulse, a smaller craft which notched up a 26-hour flight in 2010, proving its ability to store enough power in lithium batteries during the day to keep flying at night. The Solar Impulse 2 will travel between 30 to 60 miles per hour, going slower at night in order to conserve power. The single-seater plane has 17,249 solar cells built into its wings that power four electric motors and rechargeable lithium batteries. SI2 actually has a wider wingspan than a Boeing 747 but only weighs about 3 tons, compared to a 747’s weight of about 192 tons. The company will stream a live video of the plane’s progress once it sets off from Abu Dhabi on their website at www.solarimpulse.com. If the weather is good, they expect to take off Saturday, March 7.


Ray Dalio To Start Artificial-Intelligence Team

Ray Dalio’s $165 billion Bridgewater Associates will start a new, artificial-intelligence unit next month. The team will report to David Ferrucci, who joined Bridgewater at the end of 2012 after leading the International Business Machines Corp. engineers that developed Watson, the computer that beat human players on the television quiz show “Jeopardy!” The unit will create trading algorithms that make predictions based on historical data and statistical probabilities. Quantitative investment firms including $24 billion Two Sigma Investments and $25 billion Renaissance Technologies are increasingly hiring programmers and engineers to expand their artificial-intelligence staffs. “Machine learning is the new wave of investing for the next 20 years and the smart players are focusing on it.” Click HERE to read more

The Newest Sport In Iowa…Grain Silo Ice Climbing

Ever wanted to climb a sheer ice-wall? For folks in the flat Midwest, that’s something you just don’t think about much. Well, some adventurous Iowans have come up with the idea of covering an Iowa grain silo with ice and then inviting the public to scale it. According to the Today.com article, the climber who came up with the idea back in 2001 is Don Briggs, outdoor-pursuits professor at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. Briggs created curtains of ice on the grain silo by rigging hoses to spray water on the structure. The resulting ice wall serves as an ideal and unconventional 80 foot tall climbing site in the middle of the Great Plains. Now this ice solo is a regular winter weekend attraction with a $35 daily pass. The challenging climb on the repurposed silos opens for the season whenever temperatures are consistently around 26 degrees F. According to traveliowa.com, they have a very experienced staff and provide the right gear that can get you to the top. It’s a great attraction that while not yet hugely popular, it has managed to draw both novice and expert climbers from nearby towns and some as far away as Arkansas, Kentucky, Canada, California and Alaska.


Percent of Income Americans Spend On Food Half What It Was In 1960

Came across a great set of data from the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) detailing the amount of money Americans spend on food. It’s hard to believe but during the past 50 years the share of personal income spent on all food by Americans has fallen by about 50%. Between 1960 and 2007 the share of disposable personal income spent on total food by Americans fell from around 20% to below 10%. As you can see from the chart, the share of income spent on food purchased in grocery stores and other retailers declined from 14.1% in 1960 to 5.5% in 2007. The percent of income spent on food purchased at restaurants, fast food places and other away from home eating places increased from 3.4% to 4.1%. As more Americans go out to eat, they spend about half of their food budget on restaurants or other venues. In 2013, Americans spent 5.6% of their personal income on food at home and 4.3% on food away from home. The share of income spent on total food began to flatten in 2000 as inflation adjusted incomes for many Americans stagnated. Interestingly, between 2006 and 2013, food price inflation has been greater than overall inflation, making food more costly. I know we often complain about how much we spend after going through the checkout line at the grocery store, but in comparison the folks in France and Japan spend close double what we have to spend on food; Brazil & Russia spend closer to 30% of three income on food; India around 40%; Kenya & Pakistan closer to 50%.


Are Consumers Spending or Saving?

There is a major debate on Wall Street about what US consumers are doing with the extra money they are saving at the pump. I thought the recent chart by the Commerce Department was worth passing along. As you can see Consumer Savings started to increase once crude oil broke below $80 per barrel. I also feel like spending is starting to pick up a bit as well. When you‘re out and about do your own survey and check out the longer wait times at the popular restaurants and more people that seem to be out shopping…It certainly feels like an increase in savings and an increase in spending could help further fuel the economy.


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