Brazilian Commodities Market Experiencing Fluctuation

sugarcane fields Brazil

Brazil has a well-developed sugar production industry, which has been helped by the mechanization of sugar cane harvesting. Image: . Shell via Flickr CC.

The Brazilian commodities market is currently experiencing a great amount of fluctuation, due in large part to the shifting devaluation of the sugar and coffee sectors. Brazil’s massive amount of exports has led to a surplus in the worldwide market—great news for Brazil, if not so much for East Asian countries like India, where margins are shrinking in order for the country’s market to remain profitable.

Much of Brazil’s commodities market is spearheaded by BM&F Boyespa, created in 2008 when BM&F and Boyespa merged under the guidance of Rene Kern of General Atlantic. The company now controls a 4% stake in the market, the world’s third largest by market value. BM&F Boyespa acts on equity market transactions and is the only securities, commodities, and futures exchange in Brazil.

The market is looking up for BM&F Boyespa, with Goldman Sachs and Citi slashing their forecasts for coffee and sugar prices by about 31% as the Brazilian real reached its lowest level in 12 years. Sugar prices are now below 13 cents a pound, and Arabica coffee is averaging $1.52 per pound. It’s good news for Brazil, though, since the country is the largest producer of these commodities, so they can sell in increasingly larger amounts to the world market, profiting from the positive environment for exports. Also, Brazilian sugar cane factories deal with bills in local currency but sell in American dollars, leading ultimately to a positive market experience for producers.

In addition, Brazil has a well-developed sugar production industry, with the mechanization of sugar cane harvesting, a strain of sugar cane with a high sugar content, and flexibility in promoting the crop for either sugar or biofuel production, depending on which is doing better in the market.

“A rising dollar generally reduces global demand for dollar-denominated commodities, while a weakening Brazilian real significantly encourages exports, boosting global inventories,” wrote Societe Generale in an April 7 report.

The reasons behind the fall in value of the Brazilian real are likely due to concerns about the economy and the political uncertainty surrounding the corruption scandal at the state-run oil company Petrobras.

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Researchers Use Tampons to Test Water for Pollutants

researchers use tampons

Professor David Lerner using tampons to carry out pollution tests. Image: via Science Daily.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield have developed a cheap and effective way to test surface waters for certain pollutants: tampons. The pollutants in question are chemicals found in laundry detergents, shampoos, and toilet paper, which are general used for increased whitening. Called optical brighteners, they show up under UV light, and are the same chemicals that sometimes cause t-shirts to glow in bars and nightclubs.

When these chemicals enter surface waters, such as streams, rivers, or lakes, they can cause ecological damage. They impact the bacterial and invertebrate ecosystems, and can lead to an increase in detergent resistant organisms, such as “sewage fungus” which appears as a grey film on the bottom of streams and rivers. Waste water can also contain pathogens like norovirus, which can cause severe gastroenteritis.

These chemicals find their ways into surface water because some houses aren’t connected to the correct sewage pipes. In the UK, around a million such homes exist, and when identified, the problem is usually rectified quickly. The problem is identifying those homes. Usually, water companies would have to release dyes into the plumbing of a house, then see where that dye showed up later, but doing this for every home is prohibitive.

With the Sheffield team’s process though, figuring out which houses are incorrectly connected is much easier. Because tampons contain untreated cotton, they collect these chemicals very quickly, even at levels well below dangerous. When hit with a UV light, they glow in the dark, meaning the water is contaminated. From there, it’s a matter of testing each point at which sewage might hit the run off, and then keep working up the branches until you get back to houses that could, potentially, be the root of the problem.

The tests have worked in labs and in a minimal field test, and will next be put to work testing the waters of the Bradford Beck, a river which runs through the city of Bradford.

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Oklahoma Recognizes Role of Drilling in Earthquakes

earthquakes in OklahomaOklahoma’s state government on Tuesday embraced a consensus that earthquakes rocking the state are scientifically caused by the underground disposal of billions of barrels of wastewater from oil and gas wells. The state’s energy and environment cabinet introduced a website that details the evidence behind the conclusion made earlier this week.

The site includes an interactive map that plots the earthquake locations along with the sites of more than 3,000 active wastewater-injection wells. Oklahoma is recording 2 ½ earthquakes daily of a magnitude 3 or greater, which is a seismicity rate 600 times greater than observed before 2008.

Earthquakes in Oklahoma

The newly launched website features an interactive map that plots earthquake locations in Oklahoma.

The drilling technique is known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” which generates a large amount of wastewater. Some of the state’s regulators have been monitoring wastewater well activity limiting permits in some areas and requiring some operators to take steps to mitigate earthquake risk. The recent actions have met a mixed response from oil and gas industry and the governor’s critics.

“There may be a link between earthquakes and disposal wells,” the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association’s president, Chad Warmington, said in the statement, “but we — industry, regulators, researchers, lawmakers or state residents — still don’t know enough about how wastewater injection impacts Oklahoma’s underground faults.”

Most of the quakes result in no more than cracked plaster and driveways but many residents are seeing cumulative damage in quake zones and it’s continuing to get worse. In 2011 there was also a series of shocks that exceeded magnitude 5.0 which caused millions of dollars in damage.

For more information about earthquakes and their patterns in Oklahoma, be sure to visit earthquakes.ok.gov.

Images via Earthquakes in Oklahoma.

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OpBandit Looks to Track Online Readers

OpBandit

OpBandit is a tech start-up that looks to track information about online readers to determine the best and most optimized content to show them on websites. Image: via Facebook.

Many companies look for online resources to help them navigate what their clients, or potential clients, look for online. How people search and consume information, as well as their behavior online can greatly aid organizations who look to capitalize on such platforms.

OpBandit is a tech start-up that looks to track information about online readers to determine the best and most optimized content to show them on websites. The data science company keep records of user behaviors and attempts to give the individual the best possible and most customized experience. For example, someone who clicks a link from Facebook might see a different photo, or even headline, than someone who clicks from Twitter or even the original source.

This brings into the debate on how much control one can, or should, have in an online space, especially in regards to advertising and targeting the public. The company was recently acquired by Vox Media, which is one of the world’s fastest growing media companies. Vox recently partnered with General Atlantic, led by such financial experts as Thomas Murphy and Chris Lanning. Vox has not disclosed the price of the sale with OpBandit.

Trei Brudrett, Vox’s chief product officer, said of the acquisition, “It allows us to be a much smarter publisher and to really understand our audience and how they are interacting with our content, not only on our own platform but also on other platforms.”

The ability to analyze online behaviors has grown in great importance to many companies such as Vox, as well as BuzzFeed, Facebook and others. Big brands are looking to capitalize on moving towards creating different models of distributing their content.

Continued Brudett, “If we are going to deliver our content elsewhere, we want to know who our audience is there [to] better serve them our own editorial content and the advertising as well.”

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Organic Electronic Devices Could Soon be More Efficient

Although silicon has been at the core of electronics since the 1950s, it has become more expensive and less ecologically viable for use. In recent years, there has been a big push towards developing organic alternatives to silicon with some success. Organic Light Emitting Diodes, for example, are found in most smart phone displays. Inexpensive solar cells and ultra-efficient indoor lighting, with the associated smaller carbon footprint and lower electric bills, could be in the future as well. Organic alternatives for electronic devices are not only more ecologically sound, but cheaper to produce as well.

Such devices haven’t stormed the market yet, but that’s because this technology is still new, and we’re still figuring out how it works and what to do with it. Recently though, researchers at the University of Cologne, in conjunction with Jilin University in China, and the University of Nottingham have made some interesting breakthroughs.

bright

“Driven by economic and environmental factors, and by the need for renewable energy resources, there is currently an enormous scientific and technological interest in transitioning away from silicon based electronics to new organic electronic devices.” – Research news from the University of Cologne

Using a design based on organic molecules, researchers created a system in which the built in electric field creates a well to protect charge carriers. The result was a device which kept a light generated charge alive for roughly 10,000 times longer than previously possible.

The research is still very new, but it has some amazing potential. If technology like this could be further developed, and if it could be made to work at larger scales, it could change the way we think about electricity. Solar powered devices would be able to function for much longer, and with greater efficiency than they do at the moment. Solar panels wouldn’t even have to be made that much more efficient, if the amount of light they capture and convert into electricity can be stretched further. Electric cars could far outperform traditional combustion engines. Even cell phones and computers could be more useful.

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