Dyson gets in the Zone with terrifying new sci-fi contraption

Planet Business: Fake Wonka bars, seized superyachts and an NFT-beating Picasso

Image of the week: Dysonman

“Bizarre” was the near-unanimous verdict of choice this week as Dyson unveiled its terrifying new Dyson Zone noise-cancelling, air-purifying Bluetooth headphones, a contraption that will make wearers look like they belong to a new generation of Cybermen or perhaps partially assimilated to the Borg. Here Jake Dyson, son of the more famous James, bravely models the gadget in central London, a city where inhabitants were quick to dispense with paper masks in a pandemic. Who knows: the Zone might be more Londoners’ speed. The company says its 30 years of air filtration expertise have helped it pioneer this “wearable, high-end audio device”, which includes a contact-free visor that supplies “a continuous stream of purified air to your nose and mouth”, so wearers “can breathe cleaner air, anywhere”, even the Tube. Alas, its skills did not stretch to making such an innovation appear anything less than absurd. There is a lesson to be learned here: never launch a daft-looking product that is not an April Fool anywhere close to April 1st.

In numbers: Art of gold

$65.1 billion

Total value (€58.5 billion) of art and antiques sales shifted by auction houses, dealers and art galleries in 2021, with the market pushing past its pre-pandemic total, according to an influential report by art fair organisers Art Basel and UBS Bank.

$103.4 million

The artwork that fetched the highest sum at auction last year wasn’t a non-fungible token (though one came eighth in the list). It was Pablo Picasso’s 1932 work Woman Sitting Near a Window.

$11.1 billion

The value of NFT art and collectible sales through various blockchains in 2021, Art Basel estimates. It politely concluded that the rapid trading of art-related NFTs makes this new business more like meme stocks than, well, art.

Getting to know: Wonka bars

The Wonka bar is a fictional chocolate bar, but it's also a real chocolate bar inspired by the fictional original, and now it's also a counterfeit chocolate bar knocking off the real chocolate bar that was inspired by the fictional one. Anyone for a Twix instead? Since making its debut in the 1964 Roald Dahl children's novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and subsequently in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the Wonka bar has had a storied history. Possibly due to the lack of golden tickets inside the foil, the product line flopped for Quaker Oats, the Chicago company that helped finance the Gene Wilder film. Nestlé then sold a range of Wonka confectionery until 2018, when it offloaded the brand along with the rest of its US candy business to Nutella maker Ferrero. Alas, some fake Wonkas have made their way into shops, prompting food safety authorities in Ireland and Britain to advise consumers not to buy or eat Wonka-branded bars because they may not be safe. Best to stay away from the three-course dinner chewing gum too.

The list: Seized superyachts

Yachts and superyachts were the playthings of some Russian oligarchs. They are now increasingly likely to be frozen assets, seized by governments imposing sanctions on the Russian elite. So what’s in the bag?

1. Valerie: Immobilised in Barcelona, Valerie is/was owned by former KGB officer Sergei Chemezov, who heads Russian state conglomerate Rostec. Valerie also made the news last summer in happier circumstances – for them, at least – when Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez holidayed on it.

2. Lady Anastasia: Spanish authorities also seized the Lady Anastasia, owned by Alexander Mikheyev, the head of Russia's defence import agency, in Mallorca. A Ukrainian crew member had tried to scuttle it just a couple of weeks earlier after seeing media reports of a Russian missile strike on Kyiv.

3. Lady M: The Lady M is the kind of teak-decked vehicle you might expect Russia's richest man, steel magnate Alexei Mordashov, to own – or owned, rather. It has since been impounded in the northern Italian port of Imperia.

4. Sailing Yacht A: Not quite getting into the spirit of naming their status symbols / floating getaways after women was coal and fertiliser oligarch Andrey Melnichenko, whose Sailing Yacht A was boarded and then taken by Italian authorities, this time in the port of Trieste. This one is a biggie – one of the biggest superyachts in the world.

5. Lena: Gennady Timchenko's Lena was seized when it was moored at Sanremo in Italy. "Motor yacht Lena is currently not believed to be available for private charter," the website of a chartering company observes.