Globetrotting: news from around the world — October 2014

Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors Inc. is set to build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery plant in Nevada. Plus, airlines introduce in-flight streaming on mobile devices and scientists successfully grow the first fully functional organ by transplanting cells originally designed in a lab.


Fiscally enabled batteries

The state of Nevada has offered as much as US$1.3 billion in tax incentives to Tesla Motors Inc. to build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery plant, according to a Bloomberg report.

Tesla Motors designs and manufactures premium electric vehicles, including the well-known Tesla Roadster. It is considered by many to be the most promising builder of battery-powered cars in the world today.

Tesla’s new five million-square-foot (465,000-square-metre) facility, which is being built east of Reno, will help the company lower the prices on its cars. It is also expected to create 6,500 new jobs and provide a US$100 billion boost to the Nevada economy over two decades.


Less is not more

First we had inflation and deflation. Now here comes "shrinkflation." Prices remain stable; you simply get less for your money, reports Bloomberg.

Cadbury Dairy Milk

Take the Dairy Milk bar. In 2011, Kraft Foods Group shortened the bar by two squares of chocolate, while keeping the price the same. And in 2013, it rounded the corners of the bar, cutting off a little more weight. Its reasoning? Rising costs. Another example: Nestle SA shrank its Shredded Wheat cereal to 470 grams from 525 grams, while maintaining the same price.

Economist Pippa Malmgren, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, considers that shrinkflation may foreshadow an overall jump in prices — a warning she has been voicing for some time.


Netflix in the sky?

A new trend is taking off in airplanes: Bring your own device on board (BYODOB).

Airlines such as Delta, United and Southwest Airlines are encouraging passengers to use their own mobile devices during flights. Some are even offering free movies and entertainment. Eventually, the idea is to stream in-flight entertainment over their planes’ Wi-Fi networks. Instead of showing only one movie for all passengers, they could offer a full menu of movies — and charge for the service. "The long-term vision is Netflix in the sky," says Jad Meouchy, chief executive of Osurv, a mobile survey company, in a report in Bloomberg Businessweek.


Designer organs

For the first time, biologists have grown a fully functional organ by transplanting cells originally designed in a lab, reports


Scientists at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh created a thymus — an organ next to the heart that produces immune cells known as T cells, vital in protecting the body from disease.

Taking cells called fibroblasts from a mouse embryo, the scientists reprogrammed them into thymus cells. When the cells were mixed with other key thymus cell types and transplanted into a mouse, they formed a replacement organ.