One of the biggest constituents of rubbish dumps is polyethylene... When they put wax-moth caterpillars onto the sort of film it had taken Nocardia asteroides half a year to deal with, they found that holes appeared in it within 40 minutes ... it has yet to be established whether the caterpillars gain nutritional value from the plastics they eat, as well as If the droppings produced by eating plastic turn out to be toxic

Water companies are not obliged to supply all the water that people would use if it were free, nor are power companies expected to provide all the free electricity that customers might want. But many cities try to provide enough spaces to meet the demand for free parking, even at peak times.

America does not accept the one-China principle. Instead it has the one-China policy, which acknowledges that China has such a principle—not quite the same thing. America does not recognise Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan, nor does it recognise Taiwan as an independent state. It does plenty of trade with it, though. Small as it is, Taiwan is the ninth-largest buyer of American exports, outstripping Italy and India.

robotics and artificial intelligence call for another education revolution ... working lives are so lengthy and so fast-changing that simply cramming more schooling in at the start is not enough...the lifelong learning that exists today mainly benefits high achievers—and is therefore more likely to exacerbate inequality than diminish it. If 21st-century economies are not to create a massive underclass, policymakers urgently need to work out how to help all their citizens learn while they earn.

Not every job in the Speedfactory will be automated. Robots can be slower and less precise at some tasks... So each Speedfactory will create 160 production jobs, compared with a thousand or more in a typical factory in Asia. The new functions will also be more highly skilled. Adidas wants the new plants to complement the Asian operations, not to compete with them. But as advanced manufacturing expands, the need for armies of manual workers in Asian factories will surely diminish.

Consumers and regulators also have a role to play in determining how voice computing develops. Even in its current, relatively primitive form, the technology poses a dilemma: voice-driven systems are most useful when they are personalised, and are granted wide access to sources of data such as calendars, e-mails and other sensitive information. That raises privacy and security concerns.To further complicate matters, many voice-driven devices are always listening, waiting to be activated.

Luther’s inheritance can also be seen in the fact that Germany, the world’s 17th-most populous country, has the second-largest book market after America’s. After he translated the Bible into German, Luther wanted everyone, male or female, rich or poor, to read it. At first Protestants became more literate than Catholics; ultimately all Germans became bookish.

Not long ago most of those companies were owned by armies of individual stockmarket investors—a system seen as both beneficial to business and befitting a capitalist democracy, and as such one that other countries sought to replicate. Private equity’s deployment of chunks of capital from holders of large pools of money has severely dented that model. And this, too, is being replicated abroad. Only half of the world’s private-equity firms, and 56% of their funds’ assets, are American.

DeepMind...learning software had found a way to reduce the quantity of electricity that is needed to cool Google data centres, by two-fifths. The software learned about the task by crunching data-centre operation logs, and then optimised the process by running it over and over again in a simulation

Factory workers in America and Europe often blame China for stealing their jobs ... Yet many of the worries that have recently animated Western voters are common in China, too. Working-class Chinese, as well as...the new middle class, fret about rising inequality, the impact of mass migration from the countryside into cities... Among blue-collar workers, a structural shift in China’s economy, from labour-intensive manufacturing to higher-tech industries and services, is fuelling job insecurity.