Globetrotting: news from around the world — November 2014

Two European companies begin distributing 3-D scanning booths capable of producing lifelike figurines, while new research shows that exercise can improve long-term memory.


From selfie to shapie

Remember clambering into a photo booth with your friends to capture a moment together? Those 2-D photos are now giving way to 3-D figurines.

Luxembourg-based Artec and other companies such as Germany’s Twinkind and Twindom in the US have started distributing 3-D scanning booths capable of capturing a complete and highly detailed body image, reports Bloomberg. Artec’s booths take up to 12 seconds to make a complete scan, while Twinkind’s take only a split second. The replica is delivered by mail a few days later.

Will Facebook friends start sharing "3-D selfies" or "shapies," as they are sometimes called? That is likely to happen as prices come down and as 3-D printers become popular. In a telling development, Home Depot started selling the printers in July. Some models cost less than $800.


The weight of memory

Pumping iron 

Pumping iron can help shape your deltoids and abs, but it can also tone your memory muscles, reports Science Daily.

The new research, conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology, is not the first to show that exercise can improve memory. But in this case the team took a different approach. Rather than test participants after months of aerobic exercise, they asked them to lift weights just once, then tested them two days later. They also gave memory-testing photos to participants before their workout rather than afterward. This is because extensive animal research suggests that it is in the period after learning that the stress caused by exercise is most likely to benefit memory.

The research showed that an intensive 20-minute workout can improve long-term memory by about 10% in healthy young adults. In fact, no need to lift weights. Even resistance exercises such as squats can do the trick.


No peace for the winners

Swiss bank UBS sign 

Swiss bank UBS, named Best Global Bank 2014 by Euromagazine, is now facing a record fine of 4.88 billion euros ($6.91 billion) in France if it is found guilty of tax fraud and money laundering charges, says French daily Le Monde.

France International, the UBS subsidiary that looks after French clients residing outside the country, is suspected of allowing French residents to hide assets from taxation by having accounts that were not declared. The tax evasion and laundering schemes are said to have been in place from 2004 to 2012.

For its part, UBS stated in a release that it intends to "defend itself vigorously."


Has the US dollar had its day?

On October 1, China started direct trading between the yuan and the euro. This is seen by some as one more step on the way to internationalizing the yuan. But could it also be another sign that the US dollar’s days as a reserve currency are numbered? Possibly. As Montreal’s Centre for Research on Globalization puts it, "de-dollarization has been an ongoing theme hidden just below the surface of the mainstream media for more than a year as Russia and China slowly but surely attempt to ‘isolate’ the US dollar."