The James Webb is the largest and most advanced cosmic observatory and will launch in ten days. Deadly tornados tore through six US states. Bitcoin mining recovers from the Chinese crackdown on cryptocurrencies. Inflation surges to the fastest rate since 1942. New details about the Omicron Variant emerge.
1. The James Webb Telescope to Launch in Ten Days
On December 22, NASA will launch the largest and most advanced cosmic observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). With the help of the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, NASA spent over $10 billion and 20 years building and testing the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. JWST is 100 times more powerful than Hubble and will be able to see stars that are so far away that their light takes nearly 13.7 billion years to reach the telescope. Essentially, JWST will be able to observe what the universe looked like 250 million years after the Big Bang when the first stars and galaxies began to form. JWST’s central goal will be to examine how galaxies developed after the Big Bang. The telescope also uses infrared lighting, which allows it to see through dust clouds. Hubble had a limited view because it depended on visible light. JWST will give us a glimpse deeper into the cosmos and reveal the universe’s past.
2. Deadly Tornados Hit Six US States
Devastating tornados tore through Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee on Friday night and Saturday morning. In Kentucky alone, more than 80 people have been killed, and the governor believes that the state’s death toll will likely exceed 100. At least 22 tornados have been reported, and one tore through more than 250 miles from Arkansas to Kentucky. Many of the deaths in Kentucky came from a candle factory, where only 40 of the 110 workers were rescued. Six people died in the collapse of the Amazon warehouse in Illinois. Tornadoes are unusual in December, and at this strength and magnitude are incredibly rare. There is also no evidence that climate change has any impact on the strength of severe storms or tornadoes. However, several other conditions led to a storm of this scale. The La Nina climate pattern brought warm, humid air that enabled thunderstorms to form. Warm air during a cool night caused tornadoes to form, and strong winds prevented the tornadoes from dissipating. This caused one of the tornados to tear through 250 miles of land, breaking the previous record of 219 miles back in 1925.
3. Bitcoin Mining Has Completely Recovered from Chinese ban
Earlier this year in June, China intensified its crackdown on cryptocurrencies in an attempt to end its mining and trading. At that time, China was the largest market for cryptocurrencies and accounted for nearly 70% of its mining. All those miners went offline, and the crypto market crashed. The market quickly recovered, and now, Bitcoin mining has completely recovered from the Chinese ban. Data from Blockchain.com indicates that the computing power of all miners in the bitcoin network is up about 113% in five months. Crypto mining rose drastically across the world, and the US became the dominant contributor. According to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, 35% of the world’s Bitcoin mining now takes place in the United States, up from 4% before the crackdown. This quick recovery reveals how resilient the crypto market is. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies recovered within six months after the crackdown, and the US replaced China as the Crypto capital of the world.
4. Inflation Surged to Fastest Rate Since 1982
Inflation continues to rise and is now breaking records. The annual rate of inflation in the United States reached 6.8 percent in November, the highest level since 1982, according to the Labor Department. The Consumer Price Index, which tracks the cost of most goods and services, increased 0.8% in November and 6.8% from last year. Core inflation, which excludes food and fuel costs, increased by 0.5 percent in November and is up 4.9 percent year on year. The Labor Department claims that energy prices have increased 33% over the past year, and natural gas has surged 58.1%. Used cars and trucks are up 31.4%, while new vehicles cost 11.1% more than last year. Basic needs like food and shelter are also up, by 6.1% and 3.8%, respectively. Wages have also been increasing because of the worker shortage, but they have not kept up with inflation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers’ hourly income has increased 4.8% over the past year, but when you factor in inflation, wages are down 1.9%. Several factors are causing the rise in inflation, including strong consumer demand, concerns over the Omicron variant, and supply chain issues. However, economists anticipate inflation to stabilize in the coming months.
5. New Details on Omicron Variant
More data is gradually being released about the Omicron Variant as it spreads across the world. Omicron has many mutations, causing the vaccines to be less effective. Early lab experiments show that the mutations allow the virus to evade the antibodies, meaning that vaccinated and previously infected individuals have a high chance of getting infected. Omicron also seems to be more contagious, so expect cases to rise globally. However, vaccines are still protecting people from severe and deadly diseases. Scientists are still recommending that everyone get the booster shot. Early reports also suggest that the variant is less severe in general, and no deaths have currently been reported. Most other viruses, like the H1N1 influenza virus responsible for the 1918 Spanish flu and the 2009 swine flu, evolve to become more contagious and less dangerous over time. So, if coronavirus is a natural virus, it should become less contagious and less lethal over time.
Above were my top stories for the week of December 12th, 2021. Thank you and see you next week!