10% interest

Slightly OT: Earn 10% interest on your Nectar balance with Nectar Hive

Whilst Head for Points does not officially cover Nectar points, it is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards at 1:1. You can move your 30,000 American Platinum or 20,000 American Express Gold sign-up points across to Nectar so it does offer you an extended range of redemption options.

Nectar has just launched something revolutionary. They are paying interest on your points balance!

The current interest rate is 10% which is substantially more than you will get anywhere else these days!

The new scheme is called Nectar Hive. In theory it is not open to all members yet. I cannot see it on my menu bar but if I log-in and go directly to this link it does seem active.

10% interest

Hive is effectively an instant access savings account. If you move some of your points into your Hive, they disappear from the points total you see when you log in. Those points sit in your Hive account and accrue interest at 10% annually, paid weekly.

When you want to spend your points, you can transfer them instantly back into your main account. This means that the Hive is effectively a no-brainer as there is no reason not to use it.

If you believed that Hive would be around for a long time, you could generate a good return here. The power of compound interest would see 10,000 points double in seven years. You could turn a chunk of Membership Rewards points into quite a tidy sum! Unfortunately, if the scheme did take off in a big way, I have little doubt that Nectar would reduce the interest rate or put a cap on what could be kept in your Hive.

The only thing I don’t fully understand is WHY they are doing this.

My gut feeling is that Nectar points are redeemed fairly quickly. This makes sense since there is no benefit in saving them up – the deals do not get any better whether you are redeeming 500 points or 50,000. Most people probably cash them in for £2.50 of vouchers every time they hit 500 points.

From Nectar’s point of view, this is bad news as they don’t get to build up a large pile of unspent cash. 10% interest may be seen as a small price to pay if it slows down the rate at which people spend their points.

If you don’t want to keep your points in the Hive, this page on our sister site Shopper Points shows the best value Nectar redemptions – ie everything which gets you more than the standard 0.5p per point!

10% interestUniverse Today Space and astronomy news

The Milky Way Galaxy is an immense and very interesting place. Not only does it measure some 120,000–180,000 light-years in diameter, it is home to planet Earth, the birthplace of humanity. Our Solar System resides roughly 27,000 light-years away from the Galactic Center, on the inner edge of one of the spiral-shaped concentrations of gas and dust particles called the Orion Arm.

But within these facts about the Milky Way lie some additional tidbits of information, all of which are sure to impress and inspire. Here are ten such facts, listed in no particular order:

For starters, the Milky Way is a disk about 120,000 light years across with a central bulge that has a diameter of 12,000 light years (see the Guide to Space article for more information). The disk is far from perfectly flat though, as can be seen in the picture below. In fact, it is warped in shape, a fact which astronomers attribute to the our galaxy’s two neighbors -the Large and Small Magellanic clouds.

These two dwarf galaxies — which are part of our “Local Group” of galaxies and may be orbiting the Milky Way — are believed to have been pulling on the dark matter in our galaxy like in a game of galactic tug-of-war. The tugging creates a sort of oscillating frequency that pulls on the galaxy’s hydrogen gas, of which the Milky Way has lots of (for more information, check out How the Milky Way got its Warp).

The warp of Spiral Galaxy ESO 510-13 is similar to that of our own. Credit: NASA/Hubble

Scientists believe that 90% of our galaxy’s mass consists of dark matter, which gives it a mysterious halo. That means that all of the “luminous matter” – i.e. that which we can see with the naked eye or a telescopes – makes up less than 10% of the mass of the Milky Way. Its halo is not the conventional glowing sort we tend to think of when picturing angels or observing comets.

In this case, the halo is actually invisible, but its existence has been demonstrated by running simulations of how the Milky Way would appear without this invisible mass, and how fast the stars inside our galaxy’s disk orbit the center.

The heavier the galaxy, the faster they should be orbiting. If one were to assume that the galaxy is made up only of matter that we can see, then the rotation rate would be significantly less than what we observe. Hence, the rest of that mass must be made up of an elusive, invisible mass – aka. “dark matter” – or matter that only interacts gravitationally with “normal matter”.

To see some images of the probable distribution and density of dark matter in our galaxy, check out The Via Lactea Project.

As galaxies go, the Milky Way is a middleweight. The largest galaxy we know of, which is designated IC 1101, has over 100 trillion stars, and other large galaxies can have as many as a trillion. Dwarf galaxies such as the aforementioned Large Magellanic Cloud have about 10 billion stars. The Milky Way has between 100-400 billion stars; but when you look up into the night sky, the most you can see from any one point on the globe is about 2,500. This number is not fixed, however, because the Milky Way is constantly losing stars through supernovae, and producing new ones all the time (about seven per year).

These images taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope show dust and gas concentrations around a distant supernova. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Though it may not look like it to the casual observer, the Milky Way is full of dust and gas. This matter makes up a whopping 10-15% of the luminous/visible matter in our galaxy, with the remainder being the stars. Our galaxy is roughly 100,000 light years across, and we can only see about 6,000 light years into the disk in the visible spectrum. Still, when light pollution is not significant, the dusty ring of the Milky Way can be discerned in the night sky.

The thickness of the dust deflects visible light (as is explained here) but infrared light can pass through the dust, which makes infrared telescopes like the Spitzer Space Telescope extremely valuable tools in mapping and studying the galaxy. Spitzer can peer through the dust to give us extraordinarily clear views of what is going on at the heart of the galaxy and in star-forming regions.

The Milky Way wasn’t always as it is today – a beautiful, warped spiral. It became its current size and shape by eating up other galaxies, and is still doing so today. In fact, the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy is the closest galaxy to the Milky Way because its stars are currently being added to the Milky Way’s disk. And our galaxy has consumed others in its long history, such as the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy.

6. Every Picture You’ve Seen of the Milky Way Isn’t It:

Currently, we can’t take a picture of the Milky Way from above. This is due to the fact that we are inside the galactic disk, about 26,000 light years from the galactic center. It would be like trying to take a picture of your own house from the inside. This means that any of the beautiful pictures you’ve ever seen of a spiral galaxy that is supposedly the Milky Way is either a picture of another spiral galaxy, or the rendering of a talented artist.

Artist’s concept of Sagittarius A, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Imaging the Milky Way from above is a long, long way off. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t take breathtaking images of the Milky Way from our vantage point!

Most larger galaxies have a supermassive black hole (SMBH) at the center, and the Milky Way is no exception. The center of our galaxy is called Sagittarius A*, a massive source of radio waves that is believed to be a black hole that measures 22,5 million kilometers (14 million miles) across – about the size of Mercury’s orbit. But this is just the black hole itself.

All of the mass trying to get into the black hole – called the accretion disk – forms a disk that has 4.6 million times the mass of our Sun and would fit inside the orbit of the Earth. Though like other black holes, Sgr A* tries to consume anything that happens to be nearby, star formation has been detected near this behemoth astronomical phenomenon.

The most recent estimates place the age of the Universe at about 13.7 billion years. Our Milky Way has been around for about 13.6 billion of those years, give or take another 800 million. The oldest stars in our the Milky Way are found in globular clusters, and the age of our galaxy is determined by measuring the age of these stars, and then extrapolating the age of what preceded them.

Though some of the constituents of the Milky Way have been around for a long time, the disk and bulge themselves didn’t form until about 10-12 billion years ago. And that bulge may have formed earlier than the rest of the galaxy.

As big as it is, the Milky Way is part of an even larger galactic structures. Our closest neighbors include the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, and the Andromeda Galaxy – the closest spiral galaxy to the Milky Way. Along with some 50 other galaxies, the Milky Way and its immediate surroundings make up a cluster known as the Local Group.

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A mosaic of telescopic images showing the galaxies of the Virgo Supercluster. Credit: NASA/Rogelio Bernal Andreo

And yet, this is still just a small fraction of our stellar neighborhood. Farther out, we find that the Milky Way is part of an even larger grouping of galaxies known as the Virgo Supercluster. Superclusters are groupings of galaxies on very large scales that measure in the hundreds of millions of light years in diameter. In between these superclusters are large stretches of open space where intrepid explorers or space probes would encounter very little in the way of galaxies or matter.

In the case of the Virgo Supercluster, at least 100 galaxy groups and clusters are located within it massive 33 megaparsec (110 million light-year) diameter. And a 2014 study indicates that the Virgo Supercluster is only a lobe of a greater supercluster, Laniakea, which is centered on the Great Attractor.

The Milky Way, along with everything else in the Universe, is moving through space. The Earth moves around the Sun, the Sun around the Milky Way, and the Milky Way as part of the Local Group, which is moving relative to the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation – the radiation left over from the Big Bang.

The CMB is a convenient reference point to use when determining the velocity of things in the universe. Relative to the CMB, the Local Group is calculated to be moving at a speed of about 600 km/s, which works out to about 2.2 million km/h. Such speeds stagger the mind and squash any notions of moving fast within our humble, terrestrial frame of reference!

For many more facts about the Milky Way, visit the Guide to Space, listen to the Astronomy Cast episode on the Milky Way, or visit the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space at seds.org.

Matt Williams is the Curator of Universe Today's Guide to Space. He is also a freelance writer, a science fiction author and a Taekwon-Do instructor. He lives with his family on Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia.

Top 10 Interesting Facts about Thomas Edison the Inventor

10 Interesting Facts About the Life and Times of Inventor Thomas Edison

A small town in the Midwest was the birthplace of one of the most inventive geniuses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in Milan, Ohio on February 11, 1847, Thomas Alva Edison suffered through several illnesses during his infancy and toddler years. The youngest of seven siblings, Edison wasted little time making his presence in the world known.

Edison’s formal schooling was limited, and by the age of 12 he had begun his working career. From that point forward, he never stopped working, inventing and creating. With well over 1000 patents to his credit, Edison prided himself on never giving up on an idea even when the final result proved unsuccessful.

Edison’s work was at times all consuming and his main concern. As his professional life was taking off, his personal life suffered a tragic blow. While his relationships with his older children suffered, Edison would later be given another chance at being a loving husband and father.

Learn more about Thomas Edison with the following ten interesting facts about the his life and times.

Thomas Alva Edison was a sickly child. Between his illnesses and his family’s move to Port Huron, Michigan, he was unable to begin school until the age of seven. Full of curiosity from a very early age, Edison was always asking questions and had difficulty keeping his attention focused on the task at hand. He was unable to sit still for very long and was uncomfortable with the school’s rigid environment.

After attending school for only 12 weeks, Edison had established himself as a difficult student, and his teacher deemed him unmanageable. Upon learning of this characterization of her son, Edison’s mother was very angry. A former teacher herself, Mrs. Edison quickly removed him from the school and assumed the role of home school educator .

Nancy Edison supported her son’s insatiable thirst for knowledge. By teaching her son reading, writing and arithmetic and allowing him to pursue any subject of interest, Mrs. Edison helped him to channel his energy in a positive direction. He began to realize that his learning possibilities were endless and he could actually teach himself anything he wished. This set him on a path of constant self-improvement which he continued throughout his life. Edison credited his mother for shaping the person he became.

Edison never returned to formal schooling. At the age of 12 he began operating a newsstand aboard a railroad train that ran between his hometown of Port Huron and Detroit. Wishing to make use of every moment, Edison set up both a printing press and laboratory in an unused rail car where he could be found in his spare time.

10% interestThomas Edison was a bit hard of hearing.

One of the country’s most prolific inventors, Thomas Edison achieved great success while suffering from a severe disability for much of his life. While the exact cause is unclear, Edison’s sense of hearing began to decline at the age of 12. Although his father and one of his son’s suffered from hearing loss as well, indicating it was a genetic condition, there were several incidents in his life that may have made the disability even worse.

Edison suffered from scarlet fever, and it is suspected that he had numerous untreated ear infections since there were no antibiotics available at the time for that condition. It is also reported that a train conductor struck Edison on both ears as punishment for one of his experiments causing a fire on the railroad train. Edison himself believed his disability may have been caused when someone, attempting to keep him from falling off a moving train, grabbed him by the ears. Edison claims to have felt something click in his inner ear and began having hearing difficulties after that.

Many were surprised that Edison did not help his own cause by inventing an effective hearing aid. While Edison did dabble in it for a bit, his efforts were far less than wholehearted. By his own admission, Edison actually saw his hearing loss as a positive thing. He claimed it allowed him to get much better sleep than most. He also felt it eliminated distractions while he was working. He was able to drown out the constant noise of everyday conversations and was thus able to work more efficiently.

10% interestThomas Edison vs. the Train

By 1862, Thomas Edison was already an entrepreneur and the publisher of a small newspaper. Only 15 years of age, he had spent much of the previous three years experimenting with chemicals and anything else he could get his hands on. He was proud of each success but learned even more from each failure and continued his quest for knowledge.

As fate would have it, Edison experienced a life-changing moment at the very tracks on which he had spent his early teen years. Jimmie MacKenzie, the three-year old son of a railroad station master, had wandered away and ended up on the railroad tracks. Edison, who just happened to be at the Mount Clemens Train Depot that day saw a runaway train bearing down on the child. Realizing he had to do something, Edison managed to push the little boy out of harm’s way just before the train reached them. When the boy’s father realized what Edison had done, he tried to think of a way to adequately repay him for his heroism. He decided to teach Edison all about railway telegraphy, leading to a full-time job for the teenager.

For the next five years, Edison traveled across the country as a telegrapher. The need for skilled telegraph operators was great as the Civil War was underway. Not one to be satisfied doing the same thing over and over, Edison began working on the telegraph equipment in attempts to improve its performance. After returning to Michigan for a short time, Edison left for the east coast. He was confident by this time that he could make a living as an inventor. He settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where he submitted his first patent.

10% interestThomas Edison’s Vote Tabulating Machine. Hold it, this can’t be the right picture. You get the idea.

Soon after arriving in Boston, Edison, along with other inventors, began working on ways to assist state and federal legislative bodies work more efficiently. He concentrated his efforts on a way to quickly and accurately tabulate votes placed on various pieces of legislation. Legislation was deemed either passed or not passed on the sole basis of a voice vote. Edison believed he could invent a machine that would be much more objective in its counting. In 1868, he submitted his first patent request for an Electrographic Vote Recorder .

Edison’s invention consisted of a device on which all legislator’s names were listed. When placing a vote, the legislators would move a switch to a “yes” or “no” position which would then record via electric impulse and transfer to a chemically treated paper providing a printout of each vote cast. A colleague of Edison named Dewitt Roberts was intrigued by the machine and paid Edison $100 for a share in its revenue. Convinced the invention would be welcomed, Roberts took it and presented it to the members of Congress in Washington, D.C. To both men’s surprise, the invention was not enthusiastically received. Legislators were not anxious to have votes tabulated so quickly as they believed it would interfere with their ability to sway voters, make deals and use a filibuster to change outcomes.

Unable to drum up any interest in his invention, Edison abandoned the production of the vote recorder. He did, however, learn a valuable lesson going forward. He made a vow to himself never to work on a product that he wasn’t sure the public had an interest in.

6. Edison Opens Research And Development Center In New Jersey

10% interestThomas Edison in his Menlo Park laboratory

After a few unsuccessful ventures while still in Boston, Thomas Edison began losing investors. He decided to move to New York as he had been working on an improved stock ticker machine. To his delight, Western Union, his employer, offered to purchase all of his machines for $40,000. This was enough to set up business in a Newark, New Jersey warehouse. The business produced improved telegraphic and stock ticker equipment while Edison was hard at work on new ideas. He fell in love with one of his employees, 16 year-old Mary Stilwell, and married her in 1871.

In 1875, Edison felt he had outgrown the warehouse in Newark and purchased land in the small town of Menlo Park , New Jersey. With the help of his father, Edison built not only a main laboratory, but other specific use buildings as well. Edison officially moved the business out of Newark in 1876. Menlo Park was the first research and development center of its kind in the United States. Many of Edison’s greatest inventions occurred here, and he became fondly known as “The Wizard of Menlo Park.” Edison himself named the site “Invention Factory” in 1878. He certainly put this small town in New Jersey on the map.

Meanwhile, Edison also moved his wife and two children, Marion and Thomas Alva Jr. to Menlo Park. His third child, William, was born two years later. Though they were close by, Edison was so engrossed in his work that he spent little time at home. His relationships with his family, particularly his children, suffered as a result.

Everett Historical / Shutterstock.comEdison had his first Menlo Park success in November of 1877. He had been attempting to record human sound since his breakthrough improvement on Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. Edison was not adverse to taking another’s invention and improving on it and in no time at all had improved on Bell’s product. Graham had been unable to strengthen the weak signal of his device before introducing it. Edison seized the opportunity to make the device better by improving the quality and distance of the voices sent. Edison discovered that substituting a carbon disc for the parchment membrane used by Bell did just that.

In February of 1878, Edison submitted a patent request for what he termed a phonograph or speaking machine. Made from two tubes, a diaphragm, a scribing and a detecting stylus, a small metal drum and tin foil, the phonograph successfully recorded his voice reciting the popular children’s poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” By taking the vibrations of the diaphragm and carving grooves into the tin foil, Edison’s invention worked. As Edison had done to Bell with the telephone, Bell was able to improve on the phonograph by replacing the flimsy tin foil with discs of wax so the machine could be sold commercially.

This original invention catapulted Edison into world-wide fame as one of the greatest inventors ever.

After working on his idea of electric lights for some time, Edison was finally able to introduce his first attempt in 1878. He had discovered that when placed in a vacuum of air, a paper filament, attached to wires, would burn and glow for a very short duration while the paper burned out. The short illumination time was impractical and not worth the expense of production. Dissatisfied with his original prototype and losing investors’ money because of the delay, Edison and his employees kept working on it. Finally, an associate named Lattimer, after numerous tests, discovered that if the filament was made of thread that was carbonized, the light would last a lot longer. Still not satisfied, Edison tested over 6000 various materials until he found what he was looking for. After much testing, Edison settled on carbonized bamboo for his filaments, allowing his light bulbs to burn for close to 600 hours. His dream of inventing a consumer practical electric light bulb was finally a reality.

Edison went on to first light all of his own facilities with these new electric bulbs and then turned his attention towards doing the same in the financial district of Manhattan. Edison’s lighting system was based on direct current only, limiting its distance to three miles for each section. After the discoveries of Westinghouse and Tesla, an alternating current system was put into place.

3. Edison’s First Wife Dies From Possible Morphine Overdose

In 1884, Edison and his children suffered an unbearable tragedy. His wife, Mary, died at the age of 29. While there were reports that Mary died of typhoid fever, the official cause of death was listed as “congestion of the brain.” This type of diagnosis could point to a possible overdose of morphine administered to Edison’s wife at that time.

New information, uncovered in 2006 by the authors of “The Edison Papers,” a group based at Rutgers University in New Jersey, though circumstantial, tells of the common practice in the 1880s of using morphine, as well as other similar type drugs, to treat ailments claimed by young women of the time. Morphine was not the controlled substance it is today. It was available everywhere and used as a treatment for numerous medical issues.

Information recently found in digital online resources indicate that doctors believed that the side effects of opiate type drugs could result in congestion of the brain and could explain the death of someone so young. Although not confirmed, researchers have uncovered information pointing to the possibility that Mary Edison was an abuser of morphine.

There is evidence that Edison attempted to revive his wife with shock treatments once she became comatose. While it is unclear whether or not he was aware of her possible addiction, it is a strange coincidence that he chose to try a medically suggested remedy for morphine overdose to help her.

Edison was reportedly devastated by the loss of his wife and blamed himself for being away from home so often. It became a motivating factor later in his life.

2. Edison Remarries And Forms Edison General Electric Company

360b / Shutterstock.comIn 1886, 39 year-old Thomas Edison married 20 year-old Mina Miller. The next year, Edison closed his laboratory in Menlo Park and opened a new facility in West Orange, New Jersey. He also purchased a home in the country’s first planned community, Llewellyn Estates. A new life began for Edison. He had three more children with his second wife. Not wanting to make the same mistakes he made with his older children, Edison made a point to spend more time at home with his family.

In 1890, Edison formed the Edison General Electric Company. The following year, Edison merged with his major competitor, the Thomson-Houston Company. The competition for business proved to be too much for each company to stand alone. This could be described as one of the greatest mergers of all time as the General Electric Co. was born. General Electric remains today as one of the most successful businesses of all time.

The following year, Edison patented both a kinetegraph camera and a kinetescope viewer allowing a single individual to view moving pictures using a crank. Edison’s presence in the motion picture industry was short-lived however.

Edison continued to invent and perfect existing inventions up until his death. He filed his final patent request on January 31, 1931.

1. Edison’s Company Provides Construction Material For Yankee Stadium

Edison spent a great deal of time in his later years trying to develop an effective ore-milling system. In 1881 he founded the Edison Ore-Milling Company, confident that his patented process of separating iron from rock using an electromagnet would prove successful. Working with his associate William Dickson and expert in the mining field John Birkinbine, Edison tried to refine his processes so that there would be a market for the iron produced. The process proved to be too expensive and Edison closed the company after only a few years in operation.

Not one to give up easily, Edison made another attempt in the late 1880s. He first built a plant in Pennsylvania close to the mines he was trying to extract ore from. In 1889 he built a very large ore crushing plant in Ogdensburg, New Jersey. Production problems persisted in spite of all his efforts, and the company closed its doors for good in 1899.

Through all the frustration he faced trying to make his ore-milling business profitable, Edison learned that there was a market for the waste sand that resulted. Originally selling the waste sand to other cement companies, Edison decided to go into that business for himself and in 1899 founded the Edison Portland Cement Company . Edison made great strides in streamlining the production of cement using kilns twice the size of those previously used. He chose to rent the larger kilns to his competitors, increasing their production and making his competition much stiffer.

Edison thought there would be many uses for his cement, especially in home construction. While there was some interest initially, the process proved to be too complicated and costly for most home builders.

Struggling financially, the Edison Portland Cement Company was awarded the contract for materials to be used in the construction of the original Yankee Stadium, which was completed in 1923.

The Edison Portland Cement Company was unable to stay in business and closed a few years later.

Thomas Edison never felt that he failed at anything. Although a number of his inventions were unsuccessful, Edison always pointed to what he learned during the process and how it would help him going forward. Although he demanded much from his employees, he was always open to their suggestions and did not hesitate to implement them where he saw fit. Edison’s tenacity, work ethic and attention to detail was inspirational to all he came in contact with.

Although he received the most acclaim for perfecting the electric light bulb, Edison said his favorite invention was the phonograph.

Although a disappointment to his older children with his frequent absence, Edison learned from this as well and made sure he made his family a top priority in his later life.

Thomas Alva Edison died on October 18, 1931 leaving behind an unbelievable legacy of improving the lives of people all over the world with his numerous inventions.

Not everyone considers Thomas Edison to be the grand inventor described above. Read about Thomas Edison’s long-running feud with Nicola Tesla.

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