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Nobel winners, chip-seekers and William Shatner’s final frontier


Image of the week: Piece of work

One version of Boris Johnson was spotted this week “relaxing with paintbrushes” in Marbella, where he is on holiday enjoying the delights of the European Union and, crucially, nowhere near the vicinity of Westminster where MPs have just described his early response to the pandemic as the one of Britain’s worst ever public health failures. But there was another version of Johnson in London on Tuesday in the form of an oil-splattered yet still flattering statue by artist Hugo Farmer. Greenpeace activists erected the statue outside Downing Street during a protest against the Cambo oil field project in the Shetland Islands, though it later ended up on the ground as police officers were in the process of removing it. Somehow, despite this, the statue retained more dignity than the painter.

Star Trek actor William Shatner, Blue Origins vice-president Audrey Powers and Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen after they flew into space, near Van Horn, Texas. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images
Star Trek actor William Shatner, Blue Origins vice-president Audrey Powers and Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen after they flew into space, near Van Horn, Texas. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

In numbers: Captain’s log

90

Years that William Shatner has been (mostly) on Earth. This week, courtesy of Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin space tourism venture, he became the oldest person to go into space, beating the record set only three months ago by Wally Funk (82).

11

Minutes that the Captain Kirk actor spent on the flight aboard the New Shepard rocket – just about enough to fill the time between ad breaks in the third act of a Star Trek episode.

55

Years between the airing of the first Star Trek episode on US television and Shatner’s big opportunity to boldly go where several people have gone before. Not many gave a monologue as good as he did afterwards though.

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Getting to know: David Card, Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens

David Card, Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens are the three economists who have won this year’s Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel – typically shortened in headlines to Nobel Prize for economics. The three men have “revolutionised empirical research” by using natural experiments: real-life situations where chance events or policy decisions create similar conditions to those of a clinical trial. In one of Card’s studies, the Canadian showed that a higher minimum wage did not hurt levels of employment and may even boost job numbers. In another, he showed that an influx of Cuban immigrants had no negative effects on wages or employment in Miami, contrary to the accusation popularised by anti-immigration politicians. Angrist and Imbens, who are colleagues, have examined questions such as the effect military service has on later earnings and developed a framework showing how conclusions about cause-and-effect can be drawn from natural experiments. Ever get the feeling you are wasting your life?

The list: Out of chips

A growing list of major manufacturers have been forced to cut their production targets because of a global shortage of semiconductors that has been rumbling on over the past year. So who are the blue-chip companies running out of chips?

1: Apple. This week Apple, the world’s most valuable company, is expected to slash its iPhone 13 production targets thanks to the supply-chain crisis.

2: Volkswagen. VW was one of the first automotive manufacturers to flag the impact of the chip crunch, warning in April that the situation was getting worse.

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3: BMW. The car maker cut production at its plants in Germany and the UK earlier this year, meaning some people have had to sadly wait for their new BMW.

4: Toyota. The car giant cut global production by 40 per cent in September, from 900,000 to 540,000 vehicles.

5: Samsung. The Apple handset rival warned of a “serious imbalance” in the chip industry in March. Luckily, it also makes chips so its profits are soaring.



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