Are economics degrees fit for purpose?

  • 5 February 2016
  • From the section Business
New York Stock Exchange traders in September 2008 Image copyright Spencer Platt
Image caption Current economics courses have been criticised for not focusing enough on real world economics events

In many universities, something is stirring up the "dismal science", as economics is sometimes derogatorily called.

Students of economics are up in arms about what they are being taught, and how. They are not just protesting - they are doing something about it.

The movement seems to have started in Manchester around 2010. Many university economics departments received a notable increase in applications from would-be undergraduates as a result of the great financial crisis that broke cover in 2008.

They were - say the new students - alarmed by the world they found themselves in. They wanted to find out more about the crisis, and what could be done to prevent another one.

So they signed up for economics. But a year of teaching left them frustrated and surprised.

Read full article Are economics degrees fit for purpose?

How the craft beer revolution started

  • 30 December 2015
  • From the section Business
Beer vats
Image caption Big changes are underway for brewers, large and small

Big things are happening in the world of beer. Two giant brewing groups, Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, are in the process of merging.

They will produce a global monolith distributing almost one third of all the beer drunk in the world.

Read full article How the craft beer revolution started

The city where it is Christmas every day

  • 25 December 2015
  • From the section Business
Yiwu wholesale market Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Yiwu wholesale market is the centre of the world's supply of Christmas decorations

In the Chinese city of Yiwu, Christmas comes 365 days a year. But you have to look for it.

Yiwu could be anywhere in workaday urban China. It is a smoggy, swarming, unremarkable place some 300km (186 miles) south of Shanghai.

Read full article The city where it is Christmas every day

Life in the comfort zone: From pipes to smartphones

  • 2 September 2015
  • From the section Business
Linus van Pelt (left) and his friends from the Peanuts comic strip
Image caption Linus van Pelt (left) with his comfort blanket

The cartoon character Linus van Pelt from the Peanuts comic strip has a comfort blanket, and so do lots of children.

I have been out and about, travelling, and watching other travellers recently. This made me think about the history of comforters.

Read full article Life in the comfort zone: From pipes to smartphones

Look no hands: Self-driving cars on a road near you?

  • 4 August 2015
  • From the section Business
A driverless car from Mercedes-Benz at the first Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Asia in Shanghai on 26 May, 2015.
Image caption In theory taking human beings out of the driver's seat altogether could cut accidents to close to zero

Close your eyes and I'll take you there is what they sang in the musical, West Side Story. Fifty-eight years later, that proposition is the promise of the 21st Century automobile.

The self-driving car has long been the stuff of science fiction. Now it may soon be here, on the streets of Britain and other places.

Read full article Look no hands: Self-driving cars on a road near you?

The Quirky business that wants to transform inventing

  • 27 July 2015
  • From the section Business
Ben Kaufmann
Image caption Ben Kaufmann has a rather forceful personality

Sometimes a chap becomes a part of the story he's been sent to cover. Recently it happened to me in New York.

For years now, I've been reporting on what people call the great disruption - the way that technology (in particular the internet) keeps bumping into our established way of doing things, and rewriting established ideas.

Read full article The Quirky business that wants to transform inventing

The small fruit with a big flavour

  • 18 July 2015
  • From the section Magazine
Two peaches in someone's hands

More than 250 crops are grown in California's Central Valley, including some of the world's tastiest peaches. But several years of drought have left the farmers facing an uncertain future.

I have never tasted such a peach in my life. Two peaches, actually, but I will come to that in a moment. This one glows yellow in the shade where the fruit is being packed into crates. The familiar furry skin, but one bite into it is enough to produce a revelation. The cool, succulent flesh, the depth of flavour, the precise balance of sweetness and acidity achieved by the devoted nurture of Mas Masumoto and his family.

Read full article The small fruit with a big flavour

The economist who had 'deviant thoughts'

  • 18 June 2015
  • From the section Business
Richard Thaler
Image caption Prof Thaler is a leading proponent of behavioural economics

What exactly is economics? Science or art? An explanation of our society based on observable, demonstrable laws? A framework for prediction? Or is it an attempt to systematise the unknowable - the mysteries of the human mind?

As an economics numbskull, I would plump for the latter.

Read full article The economist who had 'deviant thoughts'

Entrepreneur of the year: a Bedouin turned businessman

  • 10 June 2015
  • From the section Business
Mohed Altrad

Don't ask Mohed Altrad how old he is. He may be a billionaire, but he doesn't know his age. No records. He's round about 65, perhaps.

Mr Altrad told me his astonishing story in the unlikely surroundings of one of the poshest hotels in that nest of posh, Monte Carlo.

Read full article Entrepreneur of the year: a Bedouin turned businessman

A Tale of Several Cities

Medellin city

Suddenly, the mayor of Medellin got excited. He sped across his office where we had been talking and we clambered up a spiral staircase that took us right on top of the mayoral building: floor 12 or 13, where the helicopters land. He wanted to show off the city he is so proud of. The city that was, 25 years ago, the murder capital of the world.

The long hills form a steep river valley by which this booming place is constrained. Lit up by the sunset, Anibal Gaviria spoke at a rapid pace about the sense of open hilltop he wanted to preserve, even as the city expands by crawling ever higher up the hillside.

Read full article A Tale of Several Cities