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Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Your midnight spoonful of Nutella is in jeopardy + the new James Webb telescope could allow scientists to see back to the Big Bang

The latest victim of Erdogan’s war on rates: Nutella. Turkey's currency crisis is putting pressure on the world's hazelnut supply, with potentially disastrous consequences for the king of nutty chocolate spreads, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Turkey produces 70% of the world’s hazelnuts — a third of which are bought by Ferrero, the Italian-owned company that makes Nutella. But as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s bizarre economic policy decisions send the Turkish lira into freefall, the country’s hazelnut farmers are producing fewer crops or even exiting the industry entirely, leading some in the nut market to predict an imminent Nutella shortage.

Why your next jar — if you can get your hands on it — could be pricier: The TRY has lost over half of its value at the beginning of the year on the back of Erdogan’s insistence on cutting interest rates, which he (erroneously) believes will ease inflation. That means farmers are paying above the odds for imported fertilizers, seeds, pesticide and other essentials. Meanwhile, the Turkish government's recent decision to raise the minimum wage by 50% in order to curb inflation (which now stands at above 20% in the country as a result of the backfiring rate cuts) will only raise farmers’ labor expenses. Add to that the fact that the TRY’s volatility has made it near impossible for nut exporters to negotiate fair prices, and Turkey could soon lose market share to other hazelnut producers like Italy, Georgia, and the US. For us Nutella-lovers at the other end of the supply chain, the end result will be that shortages eventually drive up prices.

Astronomers could soon be able to see some of the earliest moments of the universe: Christmas Eve this year is set to be a landmark day for astronomy as scientists launch the largest, most expensive telescope ever into space, a device so powerful it is expected to allow us a glimpse of some of the earliest moments of the universe. Replacing the Hubble Space Telescope, the USD 11 bn James Webb telescope is roughly 100 times more powerful than its predecessor and has the potential to “remake astronomy” by looking far deeper into space than we ever have before, according to Nature.

Looking back in time: Webb will offer astronomers the chance to look back in time at some of the first stars and galaxies to form after the Big Bang some 13.8 bn years ago, shedding new light on theories about the creation of the universe, how the first stars transformed into galaxies, and the workings of black holes. Trained on galaxies closer to home, Webb could also aid in the search for habitable exoplanets.

A lot is riding on Webb’s success: The telescope has been more than three difficult decades in the making, plagued by technical problems that saw its cost balloon to USD 10.6 bn, from an initial USD 1 bn budget. Largely funded by NASA, the project has invoked scrutiny from government auditors, who have questioned its worth. But if all goes to plan, the payoff from the research it will facilitate could be incalculable: “The telescope was built to answer questions we didn’t know we had,” one astronomer told the New York Times.

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