A fun and completely safe experiment for the family to try during quarantine.
- Most of us are staying home to help flatten the curve of COVID-19, but that doesn't mean there isn't learning and fun to be had.
- It's important to take a break from screen time. Kate the Chemist, professor, science entertainer, and author of "The Big Book of Experiments," has just the activity: Creating a bubble snake using common household ingredients including dish soap, food coloring, rubber bands, a towel, and a small plastic bottle.
- In this step-by-step tutorial, Kate walks us through the simple process of building the apparatus and combining materials to bring the fun snakes to life.
Simple tricks for hacking back your device.
- Smartphones are double edged swords. They are great tools for connecting people around the world, but they also often get in the way of productivity.
- One four-step strategy for taking back control is the Four R's: Remove, Replace, Reorganize, and Reclaim.
- By changing a few notifications settings and removing non-essential applications, you can completely transform your relationship with your device.
Get your finances in shape with this powerful money manager.
- Emma is a personal finance and budgeting app to help you better control your money.
- Emma organizes and analyzes all your financial accounts to save you cash.
- A $299.99 lifetime subscription is on sale now for just $39.
As we've become more globalized, the demand from businesses and individuals for faster, easier, and cheaper cross-border payments has increased. This year, total cross-border remittances will amount to more than $22 trillion worldwide and are set to exceed $25 trillion within just two years.
With such vast sums involved, McKinsey estimates that each transaction yields an average of $20 for the bank which is a large profit margin. Now, the industry is facing pressure to become cheaper and more efficient. What's driving this demand, and what's in store for the future of cross border payments?
Individual consumers are a significant growth market for cross-border payments. In the developed world and among the growing global middle classes, e-commerce is also a huge growth factor.
However, as discussed at length migrants from developing countries face some of the biggest hurdles in sending money back to family in their homeland, many of whom may be among the world's 1.7 billion unbanked. This explains why, looking at the historical timeline of money transfer firms, Western Union has maintained a market stronghold for more than 150 years now. Throughout that time, the company has remained the go-to means for anyone to send or receive cash, regardless of their banking status. The catch is that it comes with fees, which could stretch to over eight percent in some cases.
High speed vs. low cost
Even for those with a bank account, improvements in cost and speed of remittance have been small. Interbank network SWIFT rolled out its Global Payments Initiative (GPI) in 2017, aiming to create a fast and frictionless cross-border payment service.
By the end of 2018, the service had been adopted by 270 banks worldwide, making it possible to send international payments within 1-2 days, whereas previously it would have taken 4-5 days. However, many emerging economies such as Mexico and Turkey are not yet operating at SWIFT standards and miss out on its benefits.
Because the banks are failing to live up to demand, PayPal remains a popular choice, although again, it's a costly service with fees over 4% for international payments.
Competing firms such as TransferWise and Payoneer offer slightly more cost-effective alternatives to PayPal but still have only slightly pushed down fees leveled off since around 2016. One key challenge to lowering costs for these companies is that they're still dependent on the banks which still charge them high fees.
Crypto is now the front runner in cross border payments
The emergence of distributed ledger technologies and blockchain is proving to be a game-changer for global payments.
Blockchain enables people to send and receive cryptocurrencies, securely, cheaply, and near-instantly, from anywhere in the world. Although Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency, there are now several blockchain projects starting to shake up the global payments industry.
The oldest and most prominent of these is Ripple Labs. The company has developed a product called RippleNet, a global ledger of private blockchains which are used as payment gateways. Any financial institution or payment provider can join the RippleNet, and once they do so, they can interact with other members, exchanging payments quickly and cost-effectively.
RippleNet can process payments in either fiat or cryptocurrencies, using its own cryptocurrency, called XRP, to maintain liquidity across the network. RippleLabs counts over 200 institutions as its partners, including American Express, Santander, and Standard Chartered. This explains why XRP is currently the #3 cryptocurrency in the world.
While Ripple is firmly focused on the existing financial infrastructure, other contenders have emerged with similar but subtly different targets. The Stellar network for example is an open-source, distributed payments infrastructure, but unlike the RippleNet, anyone can join the network.
Stellar boasts an impressive advisory team, which includes Patrick Collison (CEO of payment services company Stripe), Matt Mullenweg (founder of Wordpress) and Naval Ravikant (founder of AngelList.)
OmiseGO for example are also working on payment processing, however, they are focusing on improving financial inclusion in the developing world. It's an independently operated extension of Asian venture-backed payment company Omise. OmiseGO operates in a similar way to Ripple but is fully decentralized and available to individual users through its open wallet.
OmiseGO has the leverage of the existing relationships established by Omise, which include serving as a payment processor for Chinese giant Alipay. The project has also secured high-profile partnerships for payment processing with McDonald's and the Thai government.
It's true that the financial sector has made steps towards increasing the speed and lowering the cost of cross-border payments in recent years. However, demand is outstripping the pace of development. If blockchain and cryptocurrencies fulfill their initial promise, these technologies could ultimately replace the existing financial infrastructure with faster and cheaper cross-border payments, challenging the banking sector in a way it hasn't been challenged since the internet was invented.
- Marie Kondo's 2014 book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, has sold over 9 million copies.
- The Japanese organizer's success has turned into a popular Netflix show, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.
- De-cluttering your home has an emotional resonance, says Kondo.
10 Amazing Tips from Tidying Up with Marie Kondo<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="513362d4486d5574d7e2bf01b97c746b"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/TXzcmr2WcDA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Put into perspective, Kondo's bestseller, <em>The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up</em>, makes sense. There is room for cherished mementos that "spark joy," but not so much for empty boxes. Sort your belongings by category, not location. Fold better. Hold onto cherished photos, discard the rest. Reduce, reduce, reduce; discover what's really <em>necessary</em>.</p><p>I thought I had learned this lesson before. I moved to San Francisco shortly after graduating college in 1997. Life happened and I only stayed for half the year, so back to Jersey went my life. UPS went on strike on my way home. This resulted in two weeks of living out of one suitcase. </p><p>What I discovered then is what I rediscovered upon moving to Los Angeles in 2011, which is what I also rediscovered during our first weekend trying out the KonMari Method: we own much more than we need. Though simplistic on the screen, sorting, collecting and discarding objects is cathartic. Like emotional baggage, you realize how much you're holding onto, as well as how good it feels to let it all go. </p><p>And so my wife and I began cleaning on another level. A caveat: we didn't follow instructions perfectly. Kondo suggests cleaning by category. For example, pile all of your books in the center of a room. All clothing, kitchenware, and so on. Instead, we tackled the project room by room, with some categorizing, such as the linen closet and bathrooms. </p><p>From our closets went nine bags to the Salvation Army, plus items I've been holding "just in case," like a giant backpack I used to travel around Europe in 2000 and the comic book collection I'd stowed in a box in high school and never opened again. Two sets of utensils are unnecessary for two people. Do we really need a few dozen mugs? Of course not. Is my life enhanced by old magazines I never thumb through? The answer is obvious.</p>
Organizing guru Marie Kondo arrives for the 91st Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 24, 2019. Photo credit: Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images<p>Yet, as mentioned, sentimental objects are different. Magazine cover stories I wrote warrant filing for the simple reason that they transport me back to a place and time: sitting across from a still-bearded Matisyahu as he prayed over his lunch in downtown Manhattan; drinking too many cappuccinos with Karsh Kale at Cafe Orlin while discussing his latest experimentation with Indian electronica; chatting with the creative Anoushka Shankar about continuing her father's incredible legacy. Moments before all of my writing lived on a screen are part of an autobiography I'd like to track.</p><p>Placing your life into a pile is an incredible way to grapple with your agency. Sure, this "collection of things" might not be the "true you," but it represents facets of your existence. Which of them would be required if you lived a life of scarcity? What would really matter then? How about a life of enough instead of excess? Such questions are impossible to ignore when everything is spread out in front of your eyes. </p><p>Cathartic, yes, but also healing. Also fun. There are many types of work; the most draining and exhilarating inspire emotions. The reorganization process is aspirational. You're putting your life back together — a life you aspire to, one of order and need, not chaos and gluttony. As Kondo writes, you might be angry at your family because your space is cluttered. We are animals of our environment. Create space in yours and emotional clarity ensues. </p><p>Yet I must push back on her feelings about books. Not that I hold onto all of them. I've donated more than I've kept, but the 300 or so surrounding me remain an important aspect of my identity. Perhaps it's not Shinto, but another Japanese word contradicts Kondoism: <a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/buy-more-books-than-you-ever-read-the-japanese-have-a-word-for-that" target="_self"><em>tsundoku</em></a>. Unread books elevate your space. </p><p>As with closets, dressers, and cabinets, Kondo asks that you move all of your books into a pile in the center of your room. She continues, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The criterion is, of course, whether or not it gives you a thrill of pleasure when you touch it." </p><p>I might not give agency to inanimate ideas like gods, but books hold a certain power. (The power is the experience of having read it, of course. But still.) I agree with Kondo, that "you are going to read very few of your books again." At least I have the excuse of citation: many of the underlines and notes make their way into articles and books. Books are also how I like to decorate.</p><p>It's the one step I'm not ready to take. Maybe in the future — <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5XptSCCciU" target="_blank">never is a promise</a> you should never make. Regardless, Marie Kondo has made a huge impact in our home. I'm just not letting her invade my library, though… yet.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a>.</em></p>