National / International News
When Bryan Hartman, a junior high math teacher from Illinois, started shopping for a family car last winter, gas prices were about $2.50 a gallon and falling.
Hartman knew he wanted a Honda, but was unsure whether to choose a larger car for his growing family, or stick with a smaller, more fuel-efficient version.
A night of research helped him decide: the smaller car was the better choice.
"When it came down to looking at how much we were going to have to put in it, " Hartman explains, "whether gas was two dollars a gallon or four dollars - which seems feasible again - it was just going to be too much over the lifetime of owning the car."
Gas prices, after all, can go up at any time.
Auto analysts say sales of light trucks and SUVs are up in the wake of lower gas prices.
But they note that even larger autos are more fuel-efficient than they were in years past.
When the stock market opened on Thursday, Apple was part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the first time. AT&T was not.
What effect will that have on AT&T's stock price? "You would need a microscope to see the impact," says Jim Angel, associate professor of finance at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.
Angel says that's because it's a huge company with plenty of stock, and relatively little of it is owned by index funds that simply by the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
"People follow the Dow because people in the past followed the Dow," says Kevin Landis, chief investment officer of Firsthand Funds. But it's the bigger, newer indices like the S&P 500 that attract most of the index fund money—and have the most market-moving clout.
This week, Marketplace Tech is exploring South by Southwest Interactive, the tech-oriented event that draws tens of thousands of people to Austin, Texas every year.
We caught up Astro Teller, scientist, author and head of Google X, aka its “Captain of Moonshots.” Teller runs Google’s mysterious research facility tasked with achieving major breakthroughs in technology. He spoke with us about the culture at Google X, the ideas they have had to let go, and the single piece of technology he is waiting for.
So you’re the head of one of the most famously mysterious places in the tech world. What’s the most different thing about it as a workplace?
The talk that I just gave here at SXSW was about failure. And I think that subject is one of the things that’s sort of the Google X special sauce. We actually have a culture where doing the experimenting is the learning; is the innovation.
Not only okay but encouraged?
I am not sure that there is an alternative.
What’s the craziest idea that you guys completely passed on and are not doing anything about?
I am just throwing out random examples but...the first couple I can think of. Someone said, hey, I wonder how much power there is in an avalanche? So we’re like, do the math and is that practical? You know...throw that one out after half-an-hour. But that was worth doing. Someone else says, hey, what if we put a coil of copper around the North Pole and then harvest the magnetic flux of the earth’s core as it joggles back and forth, which will cause a current in that wire of copper and we can pipe that back down to Europe or something.
Bad idea? Not a good idea?
Several hours before we threw that out. But if you ever say to those people, that’s stupid, they will never bring you another idea.
Do you think culture then is more important than ideas?
At one time, Google’s model was, “Don’t be evil.” I mean, is that a part of your thinking when you're talking about putting giant coils of metal on the North Pole?
Of course. Actually that issue of “don't be evil” is probably the number one reason we throw out ideas. It’s not just, “don’t be evil”, which is still the sort of inform mode for Google. We want to actively make the world...
If we can, a radically better place...That’s an even higher bar and that cuts off a bunch of avenues that we might otherwise have gone down. Maybe that even would have been lucrative. But what we lose in those ways, we more than make up for because everybody at Google X gets to be passionate and purpose-driven. And it translates into a special kind of progress.
How do you define the culture in terms of being good? I mean is that a challenge as well?
We don’t have some message from god that gives us a list of what's good and what’s not good. Obviously we have to make our own flawed judgments about each thing. But when we try to make a car that drives itself, we believe - whether we’re right or not - we believe that there would be strong net positive benefit to the world if cars could drive themselves safer than people could.
What’s a piece of technology that you wish you had that you don’t have?
We have started a few projects that are sort of shells. They are like projects waiting to happen but we don't have an idea but we are so desperate to do that project. Batteries is one of them. It comes up over and over and over again that a ten times increase in the weight-oriented density of batteries or the volume metric, the space oriented density of batteries, would enable so many other moonshots that that’s one that just constantly comes up over and over again and we will start that moonshot if we can find a great idea. We just haven’t found one yet. So it's just sitting there like an empty box, waiting.
According to the National Urban League's "State of Black America", the black unemployment rate exceeds 15 percent in 33 major U.S. cities. The report also included a state-by-state assessment of education inequality for the first time, and found that areas with greater segregation also saw major reading and math proficiency gaps, as well as high school graduation gaps.350 jobs
Yahoo announced it would close its remaining office in China, effectively eliminating 350 jobs. The company says the move is part of its efforts to cut global costs. As reported by the BBC, the fired employees have already been approached by a local employment agency.$9
That's how much Target will pay in minimum wage starting next month, as reported by the WSJ. As companies like Wal-Mart and T.J. Maxx make similar moves, efforts to attract and retain low-wage workers are getting more competitive.$10 million
Speaking of Target, the company has reportedly agreed to pay a $10 million settlement in the class-action lawsuit related to 2013's data security breach. As reported by Reuters, Target will put the money into an " interest bearing escrow account, to pay individual victims up to $10,000 in damages."6,000 babies
That's how many babies were involved in a Brazilian study looking at correlations between breast feeding and long-term success. As reported by the Guardian, babies that were breast-fed longer tended to be better educated, and higher-earning as adults.