Numlock News: August 2, 2023 • Champagne, Jellyfish, Lifeguards
By Walt Hickey
Sales of plant-based meats are declining precipitously, down 19.8 percent year over year in the five weeks leading up to July 2, 2023, according to Circana, generating $106.8 million in sales over that period. One potential reason is that food prices are up, and one unfortunate thing for plant-based meat companies is that their rivals that simply just kill animals for money don’t have to recoup enormous research and development costs to create their products, so they’re less able to bear volatility, and rising interest rates are making it hard to continue to cheaply invest in that R&D without turning around a product.
Cities and states have been reeling from a lifeguard shortage for the past several years, but by lowering the minimum ages and hiking wages many are working with nearly full staffs for the first time in ages. Baltimore, Chicago, Denver and San Antonio have a full staff for the first time in several years and Connecticut and New York have dropped their minimum age to lifeguard to 15. The issue is acute in Phoenix, which has hiked hourly pay from $14 per hour to $15.72 an hour and still only managed to open 15 of 29 pools because they only managed to hire less than 400 of a desired 650 lifeguards. Many cities are paying $500 to $1,000 bonuses to get lifeguards, or just paying to cover their certification and training. A third of public pools in the U.S. are still dealing with a shortage.
Adani Group is a massive corporate power in India that has been rocked by fraud allegations made by a company called Hindenburg Research that attempts to short companies as they reveal issues in their business. Adani is a massive, vertically-integrated powerhouse: They move 43 percent of shipping containers in India, produce 22 percent of private industry thermal power, control 51 percent of the private electricity transmission business, have 14 ports across India, handle 24 percent of all import and export cargo, and maintain a 300-kilometer private railway network. It’s a massive, integral part of the Indian economy, so any questions around the fundamentals of the business have considerable implications for the economic health of India as a whole.
A new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B argues that a set of jellyfish fossils unearthed in the 1990s in British Columbia are 505 million years old, which would make them the oldest jellyfish known to science. The fossils are exceptional, and many of the 170 bell-shaped jellyfish recorded there still have over 90 tentacles preserved, as well as stomach contents. Their bodies grew to 8 inches long, which would have made them some of the largest animals in the Cambrian ecosystem, and since they’re very nearly unchanged compared to the box jellyfish of today there’s a pretty solid argument to be made that owing to their durability they’re one of the most enduring, optimized predators in the world.
In 2022, the International Union for Conservation of Nature decided to shift the long-tailed macaque from vulnerable to endangered. This has proven controversial, particularly among scientists, as the macaque is widely used in biomedical research, and some are doubtful of the evidence of decline of the species that motivated the shift. They’re utterly critical to biomedical research: Macaques were 95 percent of the 33,000 nonhuman primates imported to the U.S. in 2022, and the National Association for Biomedical Research is asking for a reversal, saying that macaques are abundant or even hyperabundant in many places around the world. A 2006 study cited by IUCN estimated that the population declined from 5 million macaques in the 1980s to 3 million in the 2000s, and projected a 50 percent decline over the following three generations.
The valuation of the sports memorabilia business is currently estimated to be worth $26.1 billion as of 2021, but is projected to rise to $227.2 billion by 2032 according to Market Decipher. This is fueled by a spike in interest from collectors and dealers; the National Sports Collectors Convention has seen attendance double to 100,000 over the past two years, and auction houses are regularly hammering record-selling baseball cards and other mementos of the sports world. Heritage Auctions was getting $2 million in revenue from sports cards in 2003, revenue that in 2022 hit $180 million.
A new study looked at 13 vintages of Champagne contributed by Champagne Castelnau in Reims to see how aging over time affects the bubbles of the wine. Those vintages — which ranged from 46 years to 25 years, or 1974 to 1996 — came in three bottle sizes: 750 mL, 1.5-liter magnums and the 3-liter jeroboam. They found that the CO2 content in each decreased depending on how long the wine had been aged, escaping through diffusion through the cork. The 1974 vintage lost 80 percent of its CO2. However, they found that larger bottles were better for maintaining CO2 and thus have a longer shelf life; the researchers estimated a 40-year shelf life for a 750 mL bottle, an 82-year shelf life for the magnums, and a 132-year shelf life for the jeroboam.
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