Numlock News: April 1, 2020 • Turtles, Yeast, Crimes
By Walt Hickey
Public service announcement: because of the date, the internet might be extremely stupid today, so do exercise some extra caution. All these have been vetted for credibility, but be careful out there!
According to the cruise industry, British Columbia alone generated $2.21 billion in economic activity from cruises in 2016, about 70 percent of the total for Canada. That’s a staggering number — and one in jeopardy because of the collapse of the business — but the key phrase is “according to the cruise industry,” and lots aren’t buying that. Victoria was poised for 800,000 cruise visitors in 2020, and clearly will miss a lot of that, but the cruise business lacks the employment footprint of other transportation industries in trouble, like the airlines. The airlines employ over 740,000 full and part-time workers in the U.S. alone. By comparison, in 2018 Carnival had 12,000 corporate employees and 88,000 crew members, of whom just 4.4 percent were from North America or Central America. Ross Klein, a sociologist who studies the cruise industry, estimated those economic impact figures are overstated by 25 percent to 33 percent, at least.
Everyone is baking during their self-containment, and we have the receipts to prove it. According to Nielsen, sales of yeast grew 647 percent in the week ending March 21 compared to the same week of 2019, a degree of sales leavening unseen by any other product in the grocery store tracked by the company in that period. I understand the impulse to stock up on it, but I have to ask, consumers know that you can just make more yeast by feeding it, right? Also, yeast is free, it’s just in the air and on stuff, I know we try not to think about it, but that’s the deal. It’s like how “feral” was a word invented by the government so they could charge you money for cats, the stuff is just out there if you want to harvest it.
From March 8 to 22, video game streaming hub Twitch saw viewership increase 31 percent, and passed the milestone of 43 million hours of streamed content watched daily. Without proper sports, our competition-craving lizard brains are increasingly turning to the best available, which in this case is gifted teenagers playing iRacing Pro Series or Overwatch. We’re not at the point where I’m staring intently at raindrops on my window to see which one wins the race, but I will say if I see two pigeons outside my window scrapping over a forlorn everything bagel, I’m not gonna look away.
Crime appears to be down considerably in some big cities: as of March 22, crime was down in San Francisco 42 percent compared to the previous week, down 22 percent week over week in Detroit, down 19 percent week over week in Los Angeles and down 13 percent in Chicago. On Friday, the NYPD said they saw a 24 percent decrease in major crimes the week ending March 22, which was just the first day of the stay at home order. Turns out telling everyone to stay in their apartments has a compelling crime reduction link. Listen, we all have to agree on this, under no circumstances can we allow Batman to learn about this information.
Want A Satellite?
Just last week, a Soyuz with 34 satellites was launched into orbit on behalf of OneWeb, which was trying to build a constellation of 720 such communications satellites in order to beam internet down to people on earth without a landed connection. On Friday, they announced they’d filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, laying off most of its workforce. The company had $2.1 billion in liabilities and $1.7 billion in financing, owing money to 1,000 to 5,000 creditors. They do, however, have a compelling bargaining chip: 74 satellites in orbit, and the rights to a chunk of global spectrum that those satellites can use. Right now, 74 satellites is too small a count to operate any kind of telecom service or make any meaningful money off of, but the hope is that there’s probably some starry-eyed billionaire who’s read enough Neal Stephenson to get interested in plopping down some money for a half-constructed orbital grid.
Sure, domestic travel in the United States has taken a complete nosedive, but it’s worth noting it’s absolutely not zero quite yet. Transatlantic travel is down seriously, but domestically it’s down around 40 percent. Thousands of aircraft are still functioning — at 10 a.m. eastern, at the beginning of March there were approximately 7,800 flights over the United States, according to Flightradar24, but at the end of the month it stood at 2,800 flights at the same time of day. Commercial flights were down 55 percent in the final week of March compared to the same week of 2019. No state has forbidden air travel, though Puerto Rico has mandated incoming aircraft land at an airport where passengers will have a health screening. And while they haven’t forbidden anything, La Guardia in New York has been encouraging consumers not to fly there for effectively its entire existance.
Researchers do lots and lots of testing and research on animals, and forced isolation really complicates that. The answer to “what should the laboratory do with the 100 incubating eggs from critically endangered turtles” actually turned out to be converting a garage into a serviceable nursery. Nationwide researchers are making brutal choices as to how to proceed with research that’s contingent on keeping lots of organisms alive when any form of human congregation is forbidden. Some are trying to press cryogenic pause: The Jackson Laboratory is a biomedical research institute in Maine that sells millions of research mice per year, and they’ve reported a jump in requests to freeze mouse embryos or sperm in order to rebuild experiment pools, and have sent trucks around the country to collect mice for preservation so that the research that’s being interrupted isn’t a total loss.
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