Numlock News: August 21, 2019 • Robots, Giant Clams, Not Corn
By Walt Hickey
It’s a huge year for robot sales. U.S. companies ordered 8,572 industrial robots in the second quarter of the year, 19 percent more than the same quarter last year. All told, this year companies have bought 16,448 robots for $869 million, which is 7.2 percent more robots than the first half of 2018. The cost of those robots is declining, and while other industrial spending has slumped somewhat it seems like manufacturers are still fairly eager to get into the robot business. The Numlock Corporation recently invested in a Twitter bot and, should Q3 come out on par with expectations, is reportedly looking at acquiring a Roomba with a small minibar on top.
This year, there were 108 television series were submitted for the best comedy series category at the Emmys. The overwhelming majority of these were single-cam series, that is to say scripted comedies that don’t rely on the multi-camera sound stage sitcom setup with the live studio audience favored in earlier eras. The Office is single cam, Friends is multi-cam. Indeed, only 13 of those 108 comedies were multi-cam — The Big Bang Theory, The Connors, Will & Grace, and more — and some in that space argue there should be an Emmy category explicitly for shows in that format given their inability to compete with the more popular and arguably prestigious single-cam comedies. The most recent multi-cam comedy to win was Everybody Loves Raymond in 2005, the most recent time one was nominated was 2014. Incidentally, the format may have missed its window to strike out and form its own category, as per Academy bylaws there has to be 14 or more entries in order to prompt an exploratory look into a new Emmy category. [Cue audience to aww in sadness].
An analysis of about 100,000 researchers and the citations they used in their research found that the median rate of self-citation is 12.7 percent, which is to say that when referring to earlier work, the majority of the time researchers refer to work by other researchers. This is not always the case, as the study also found at least 250 scientists who more than half of their citations were of themselves or their co-authors, and one — Sundarapandian Vaidyanathan — for whom 94 percent of his citations were from himself or his co-authors. Another unpublished study found that 7 percent of authors had self-citation rates over 40 percent, which as I said in the October 13, 2018 edition of Numlock News, “it’s a whole mess,” and — just as I mentioned in the July 11, 2018 edition — it’s “slightly-less-ideal.”
Earlier this year, farmers were prevented from planting corn due to miserable weather. Now, that corn that they didn’t plant has (as expected) not grown, and scouts looking at the fields are worried about all the corn that isn’t there. South Dakota saw corn yields of 154 bushels per acre in 68 samples, down 13 percent from last year’s average, and in Ohio among 116 samples, yield of corn was down 14 percent. The data is preliminary but not encouraging.
Japan is in a trade spat with South Korea over a diplomatic dispute, and one potential impact is on the Japanese supply of kerosene, some of which originates in Korea. About 61 percent of Japan’s winter domestic heating is from kerosene heaters, compared to 18 percent from city gas, 17 percent from electricity and 4 percent from liquid propane. There’s a solution in many Japanese households already: air conditioners equipped with a heating element are a more efficient way of heating a room, and deliver equivalent heating at very nearly the same price. Moreover, switching to electricity powered air conditioning over carbon-based kerosene can improve air quality and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
In the 1970s, a reef assessment found that giant clams were close to becoming extinct in the Philippines. In the mid 1980s, clam larvae was imported from the Solomon Islands and Palau to a laboratory on the coast, and over the following 30 years, Filipino marine biologists re-seeded the 500 kilogram mollusks all over the nation, a categorical achievement in conservation. There are 13 known species of giant clam, which filter-feed plankton and are hosts for all sorts of symbiotic algae. While corals die of bleaching, clams can bounce back when temperatures normalize. After about a year from being hatched in the lab, the clams are 10 centimeters long, and when they reach 15 centimeters long, they’re moved to an open ocean nursery. The lab tries to produce 5,000 juvenile giant clams every year.
Putnam County Memorial hospital has 14 beds, which generated $120 million in payments to outside vendors over the course of the first six months of 2017. About $80 million of those, lab-related charges, went to companies affiliated with its owner, a Miami entrepreneur at the center of an investigation into the operation of a number of rural hospitals in the South and Midwest. One hospital in a town of 1,790 generated $92 million in hospital lab fees for blood and urine samples in six months, another saw fees triple to $32 million the year the company took control. Today, of the 18 hospitals in eight states overseen by EmpowerHMS and Jorge Perez, 12 have entered bankruptcy and eight have folded completely, leaving employees and people who live in their coverage areas in the lurch. Sure, you could probably make an argument that small rural hospitals should be a standard municipal service and not managed like the time Tony and the gang took over that gambler’s camping store in The Sopranos, but that would be a tad communist.
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