comment 0

Oil Prices Rise After Conflicts In The Middle East Heat Up

The oil prices have continued to surge in the last few weeks, and have hit the highest point since November 2014. The price of a barrel of crude oil has reached $71 because of increasing turbulence in the Middle East. One of these ongoing conflicts is the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, which flared up in April, as seen in the big surge in the chart.  Moreover, the increase of uncertainty regarding the position of Iran, and the escalating conflict between Israel and Syria, have caused the uncertainty to grow in the last weeks. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, high oil prices can lead to higher gasoline prices on a microlevel, but can lead to inflation and a reduction of economic growth on a macro level.

Figure from NY Times

comment 0

The Swiss Job Divide

This graph was made by data journalist Duc-Quang Nguyen and shared on Reddit. The data source is the Swiss Statistical Office. It is part of an article that features many more cool visualisations. The main message seems to be that gender stereotypes are still going strong in Switzerland, though many professions did become more diversified over the past decades. Nguyen mentions that the Swiss labour market is seen as the most discriminatory in Europe in terms of gender equality. (source)

comment 0

Mapping the Dutch Old ‘Boys’ Network

The Dutch data visualisation company ‘Datagraver’, has mapped the network of over a 1.000 active leaders in Dutch corporate, (semi-)government and NGO society. The network shows more than 18.000 relations (‘edges’), and further analysis in Gephi resulted in a top 25 of the most influential, well-connnected. Pauline van der Meer Mohr, a former university president and currenty chairing the Supervisory Board of Ernst & Young, tops the list. 8 out of the top 25 are women, which is quite surprising, as well as the number of relatively unknown (i.e. unmentioned in the media) entries in this list. (source)

comment 0

The Impact of Deforestation On Malaria

Deforestation in Brazil has led to an increase in malaria cases, according to a new study in Nature. The study found that areas affected by one kilometre square of deforestation produced 27 new malaria cases. Moreover, their results emphasise not only that deforestation promotes malaria incidence, but also that it directly or indirectly results in a low Human Development Index (HDI), and favours environmental conditions that promote malaria vector conception. As shown in the figures above, the impact of deforestation on malaria cases is bigger than it is with forest degradation and impacted forests. Simple linear regression analyses showed that each km² of deforestation corresponded to an increase of 27 new malaria cases, whereas each km² of impacted forest corresponded to an increase of 16 new cases. (source)

comment 0

Mind Over Body

Elite chess players live longer than the general population and have a similar survival advantage to elite competitors in physical sports. This is the conclusion of a recent study, performed by the University of Queensland, aimed to examine if the survival advantage of elite athletes counted for mind sports as well. The study found that life expectancy of chess grandmasters (GMs) at the age of thirty, was 53.6, compared to 45.9 for the general population. There was little statistical difference between chess masters and Olympic medallists. The accompanying figure shows the survival rate of GMs and OMs from 28 countries relative to the general population from the same countries, and shows just how much longer both GMs and OMs live compared to a regular Joe. The study brings up multiple arguments for the statistical differences between GMs and the general population:

  • To be able to attain the Grandmaster title an individual may be encouraged to make necessary health improvements (e.g. reduced smoking and alcohol consumption, improved nutrition, more regular cardiovascular exercise, etc.) to improve one’s cognitive performance.
  • There is evidence that suggests that playing chess can reduce the risk of dementia, as well as physically alter the structure of the brain
  • Becoming a chess grandmaster may provide an economic and social boost, which has been strongly linked to increased life expectancy



comment 0

Greece’s Biggest Banks Pass Stress Test

Greece’s four largest banks – the National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and Piraeus Bank – have passed the latest ‘stress tests’ applied by the European Central Bank. The banks appear to have sufficient capital buffers to weather an adverse scenario (three years of negative/slow GDP growth). The ECB shows the average core capital ratio (CET1 ratio) would drop by 9 percentage points. These Greek banks were put through an accelerated timetable, because the thrid  in order to complete the test before the third aid package for Greece runs out in August. (source)

comment 0

Cassie, The Under $300k Robot


Oregon start-up Agility Robotics has been making a robot that can walk and run and retails for under $300.0000. Cassie, as the robot is called, is named after the cassowary, a two-legged flightless bird (something in between an ostrich and a peacock). Cassie is a two-legged robot with no arms, but the next generation might gave, and should be able to carry packages from delivery trucks to your door. The technology for Agility Robotics was initially developed at the Dynamic Robotics Laboratory at Oregon State University. (source)

comment 0

WHO: Air Quality Inequality Widens

The World Health Organisation dropped a massive report on air quality all around the world on Wednesday. Here are their key findings:

  •  Data from WHO shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants
  • 7 million people die each year because of air pollution
  • 3 billion people people (+- 40%) are breathing in polluted air on a daily basis
  • The fine particles in polluted air penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia
  • Air pollution is a critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), causing an estimated 24% of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25% from stroke, 43% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29% from lung cancer

One of things this report focuses on the most, is the air pollution inequality. In rich cities around the world, the air quality is improving. The worst air quality can be found in poor regions, most notably south and south-east Asia. These parts of the world not only have the worst air quality, but it is also worsening the fastest: 70% of the poor cities in this region suffered worsening air quality. Delhi has the worst air pollution out of the world’s mega-cities with more than 14 million habitants, followed by Cairo and Dhaka. The figure, made by The Guardian, shows the inequality and the widening gap between the world regions. (source)

If you’re interested in the air quality in your region:

comment 0

The Evolution of EU Spending

This week, the European Commission presented its proposal for the budget for the period 2021-2027 – the so-called Multiannual Financial Framework. The size of the proposed 7-year budget is  EUR 1,279, about 1,1% of the EU-27 gross national income. The graph above shows the last 30 years, priorities have shifted from agriculture and cohesion to “other programmes”, like innovation, climate change and migration. (source)

comment 0

Seven Centuries of Declining Interest Rates

A new working paper by Paul Schmelzing presents a fantastic dataset for interest rates, dating back to the 13th century, and shows that real rates have een dropping. The all-time real rate average has been 4.78%, but the average over the last tow centuries stands at 2.6%. Schmelzing shows the interest Arte has been dropping by an average 1.6 basis points (0,016%) per year. (source)