Shipping_containers_at_ClydeIt’s hard to imagine a world without container ships. These ships make it possible for us to request and send products all over the world. How do you think that Chinese- made pair of jeans go to you? Container ships are a feat of engineering and the backbone to our modern economy. The container aboard these ships are able to seamlessly be transported to the ship by semi-trucks, loaded on the ship, and taken off to be transported by truck to their destination. There is no need to unload the contents as in the old days.

Before containerization was invented, items were transported in packages and placed aboard ships. It was a painstaking, time consuming process. Containers can hold up to 64,000 lbs of cargo each. Thanks to the invention of containers, the shipping time for cargo was reduced by 84% and costs went down 35%. By 2001, almost 90% of dry cargo was shipped in a container.

Shipping containers are built to hold heavy material, withstand the salty ocean air, and last a long time. They are usually made of steel, but can also be made of aluminum, fiberglass, or even wood. The invention of the container was not met with open arms. Many trade unions for dock workers balked at the idea. They believed this invention would cause massive job losses. Many companies involved in ports and railways were worried about the huge costs involved in developing infrastructure to handle these new containers.

Containers can now be loaded and unloaded from a ship in a few hours. The sturdy containers also allow for less breakage while the ship is underway. There is also less theft. Container ships now make up about 14% of the world’s fleet based on tonnage. Despite improvements in efficiency, about 2,000-10,000 containers are lost at sea each year. This costs companies about $370 million dollars. This is due to storms, or even ships sinking. Shipping by container is still the best way to go for many companies around the world. You can thank this containerization innovation next time you purchase an item made overseas.

The penny costs more to make than its face value, so why is it still around?

One quarter, two nickels, three dimes, zero pennies. This is what you may find in the average pocket. Most people do not carry or use pennies on a daily basis. If we see a penny on the ground, we are likely to pass right over it. So why do we need the penny? Many politicians and economists are proposing to eliminate the penny altogether. The penny currently costs more to make than it is worth, so that fact alone is reason to get rid of them. So why have we kept them around and what would happen if we got rid of them?

It may be surprising to find that pennies aren’t the only coins that cost more to make than their face value. In 2011, the nickel cost $0.1118 cents to make, while the penny cost $0.0241. From the infographic, we can see the true cost of nickels and pennies. Seigniorage is the difference between the total cost of production and the actual value. In 2011, this came out to be $60.2 million for pennies and $56.5 million for nickels.

Proponents of the penny argue that the formula for making them should change. Over the last 30 years the penny has been made with 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper. The nickel is made of 75% zinc and 25% copper. It is surprising that the nickel contains even more copper than the penny. President Obama has proposed altering the materials in the penny and nickel to decrease their cost. People opposed to keeping the penny believe this will only increase the likelihood of counterfeiting the coin.

American’s For Common Cents says that if we moved from the penny to the nickel as the lowest denomination coin it may create public anxiety over higher prices. About 77% of Americans worry that prices would be raised if the penny was abolished. Professor Raymond Lombra of Penn State found that rounding to the nearest nickel would cost consumers more than $600 million annually. About 59% of Americans worry that getting rid of the penny would cause confusion when purchasing items.

Whether you are against or for the penny, it will be interesting to see how this controversy plays out over the coming years. Next time you see a penny on the ground, pick it up and consider your thoughts on whether it should be eliminated or kept around.


UnknownThis statue is a symbol of America and is known throughout the world. Many visitors come to New York just to view her in person. She was a gift from the people of France in 1886. During immigration, the statue became an icon of freedom for those arriving from other countries. Here are some facts you may not know about Lady Liberty.

  • 1984-1986: The statue was closed for restoration. The torch and much of the internal structure were replaced.
  • After 9/11, it was closed for safety reasons and was reopened in 2009 for limited visitors.
  • Liberty Island fully opened July 4, 2013
  • Nobody has been able to access the balcony on the torch since 1916
  • The French paid for the statue but the US paid for the pedestal on which it stands
  • There are differing opinions in how much copper was needed for the statue. Some say 200,000 lbs while another says 128,000 lbs.
  • The cost of the donated copper was $16,000 at that time (Around $354,000 in 2014).
  • American fundraising for the statue included a young Theodore Roosevelt
  • Designer of the Eiffel tower, Gustave Eiffel, also helped on the Statue of Liberty
  • To protect the copper skin on the statue, Gustave Eiffel insulated it with asbestos
  • Many Americans at the time preferred realistic artwork rather than allegorical like the Statue of Liberty
  • The proposed height of the pedestal was 114 feet, it was reduced to 89 feet
  • Some people donated as little as 5 cents towards the pedestal
  • The tradition of the ticker-tape parade started during the parade for the Statue of Liberty when traders at the NYSE threw ticker tape from the windows
  • A fireworks display was planned for the Statue of Liberty’s arrival, but it was postponed due to bad weather
  • Replacement copper for some repairs came from a rooftop at Bell Labs

Even if you haven’t had the chance to visit Paris, you already know about the Eiffel Tower. It is one of the world’s most iconic structures aside from the Statue of Liberty and a few others. Named after its creator Gustave Eiffel, the tower was built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. The image below comes from the Eiffel Tower’s website and gives key figures regarding the structure.

  • The tower was only intended to last 20 years but was saved due to the scientific experiments it was used for
  • The tower served as a military radio post in 1903
  • The first public radio programme was broadcast in 1925 from the tower
  • Almost 250 million people have visited since it opened in 1889
  • 120 antennas are atop the structure
  • The country with the greatest percent of visitors (besides France) is Italy followed by Spain and the US
  • The Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure for 40 years until the Chrysler Building was completed
  • Every 7 years, 50 tons of paint are added to the tower to protect it from rust
  • The temperature can alter the height of the tower by up to 6 inches
  • The French nickname is La dame de fer meaning the iron lady
  • The tower weighs over 10,000 tons and is made of iron


UnknownNumismatists (coin collectors) likely have a few half dollars stashed away in their collection. Since 2002, the half dollar has only been minted for collection purposes.  This was due to a large inventory and lack of demand. These coins are no accepted in vending machines, slot machines, or other coin operated machines. Once supply levels of the coin drop, more will be minted. If you were lucky enough to find one in circulation you probably held onto it. Many magicians prefer the half dollar due to the coins weight and size.


During their prime, half dollars were used quite often. Many casinos accepted them, especially for games requiring a 50 cent ante like blackjack. The rise of silver in the 1960s caused a problem for the US Mint. The price of silver would have exceeded the value of the coins (dimes and quarters). In 1965, the composition of the coin changed to copper and cupro-nickel. The Kennedy half dollar, though, still contained silver. The percentage of silver in this 50 cent piece dropped from 90% to 40%.

Rise of the Quarter

As silver continued to rise, many people hoarded half dollars containing 90% silver. A roll of these coins would net around 7 ounces of silver. Eventually there were so few in circulation that businesses became used to it. The quarter soon became the highest value coin. Soon enough, banks and cash drawers stopped stocking the half dollar. Coin operated machines like payphones and vending machines did not make slots big enough to accept half dollars.

Half Dollars Today

Today the half dollar is virtually out of circulation. You would be hard pressed to find a place that accepted them or that issued them. It is mainly for the collector that the coin has been minted. If you have an interest in coins, the U.S. mint allows you to purchase modern day half dollars.

imagesSteel and iron are important materials in our modern society. Some people may actually interchange the two, but steel and iron are very different. Iron is an element, while steel is an alloy made up of both iron and carbon. An alloy is just a mixture of two or more elements, generally two or more metallic, or one metallic and one nonmetallic. Other elements can be added to steel to create products with different characteristics. Stainless steel is comprised of steel and chromium; this product doesn’t rust and is very durable. Other elements that can be added to steel are silicon and manganese. By adding these other elements, one can control the strength, ductility, and hardness of steel.
Steel is the main product used in construction, as it is much stronger than iron and has better compression and tension characteristics. Iron that contains more than 2% carbon is called pig iron. But iron that contains less than 2% carbon is steel. Pure iron is very soft and susceptible to rust when in contact with moist air, making it unsuitable to be used in construction or in making utensils, cookware, or many other products. Steel, in comparison, can be up to 1000 times harder than pure iron, hence its widespread use in manufacturing many products we use today.
Although steel is much stronger than iron, it is still very malleable and thus able to be manipulated to create certain shapes. Because of it’s properties, it is the most common alloy used today. It is used for manufacturing weapons, vehicles, tools, buildings, and more. One famous building, the Eiffel Tower, was constructed from puddle iron, which is an iron alloy with very low carbon levels. If it was built today though, it would likely be made of steel.
An important form of iron is that found in our bodies. It is used to carry oxygen to the body in the form of hemoglobin. Many foods we eat are rich in iron such as red meat, tofu, beans, and fish. People who are iron deficient can take iron pills, to ensure that they don’t suffer from fatigue and weakness which is common in those with low iron levels. Vegetarians are among those most at risk for iron deficiency.
As you can see, there are many differences between iron and steel. Steel is comprised of iron and carbon, it is malleable, and has a greater strength than pure iron. Iron was very common before steel production became cheap. Today steel is used in manufacturing many products and for constructing bridges, railroads, buildings, and more. So next time someone confuses steel and iron, you can explain just how different they are.