After 14 years and a cost of $10.6 billion (£6.6 billion), AlpTransit Gotthard has finished digging the longest tunnel in the world. The 34 mile (57 km) Gotthard Base Tunnel under the Swiss Alps will cut travel times between Zurich and Milan by one hour each way. The last slice of rock was broken on Friday, and 50 miners walked through carrying the flags for regions of Switzerland to celebrate. Over the past 14 years, more than 2,500 employees have moved enough rock to make the equivalent of five Egyptian pyramids. I look forward to throwing a hot dog into this tunnel and nicknaming it “your mom”. BOOSH.
In other great news, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported they are confident the rinderpest virus has been eliminated from all cattle by vaccination programs. If so, this is only the second virus after smallpox to be eradicated by humans. BBC is calling it “the biggest achievement in veterinary history and one which will save the lives and livelihoods of millions of the poorest people in the world.” The disease killed an estimated 80% to 90% of all cattle and buffalo in Africa in the 1800s, and more recently killed 70% of all infected cattle. It was one of the deadliest cattle diseases, but thanks to a vaccine developed by Walter Plowright in the 1960s and an eradication program started by the FAO in 1994, the disease is likely eliminated. Next up? Guinea worm.
As great as those two breakthroughs are, it can’t all be sunshine and Corgi puppies. Get ready for a spike in blood pressure (then stare at the Corgis to lower it), because the largest banking and securities firms are on pace to pay out record breaking bonuses this year to their top executives while layoffs aren’t expected to slow. The 36 biggest companies are expected to pay $144 billion in salary and benefits this year; 29 of the firms are raising pay a larger percentage than their raises in revenues. Morgan Stanley have already said they won’t be paying bonuses early to let execs benefit from the Bush tax cuts before they expire next January 1st. Helping top execs avoid taxes while laying off lower level employees might make them look bad. Gee, ya think?
- A blind dog named Dolly has been given a special collar with “whiskers” to help her judge her surroundings, vanquish enemies. (Arbroath)
- Doctors in the U.S. have started the first testing of human stem cells in human test subjects. All subjects will be patients who have sustained a spinal injury within the previous two weeks. (AFP)
- “For the first time in their freely-traded history, the Australian Dollar, the Canadian Dollar and the US Dollar are all within a penny of parity.” (Metafilter)
KNOW YOUR STATS
- The strongest beer in the world is 60% alcohol by volume, and here’s the rest of the top ten. (CoedMagazine)
- Gold prices hit a record all-time high on Thursday. Here’s an infographic about our obsession with the yellow stuff. (OneMint)
- For every $12,500 real U.S. dollars, there’s one counterfeit dollar. That’s $60 million dollars total out of the $750 billion in circulation. That would buy so much gold and beer, or just one incompetent CEO. (Mint)