Numlock News: August 26, 2022 • Sailing, Rivals, YA Book
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
Scientists who study organizations and achievement have built up a body of evidence showing rivalries can be excellent at boosting motivation. One research study asked members of a running club to name their rivals within their group, and when present in the same race as a rival runners gained a 25-second advantage in a 5-kilometer race compared to races where the rival wasn’t present. Some of the research indicates that when people are anxious around rivals, that can actually cause them problems, so friendly rivalries produce some of the best performances. This obviously backs up historical research from the Oak laboratory that followed two rivals who were attempting to be the very best, like no one ever was, to catch them was their real test, to train them was their cause.
South Korea’s national fertility rate, which had been the lowest in the world at an average of 0.84 children per woman, has dropped again and is now 0.81. Last year the number of births was just 260,600, and the country is the fastest-aging in the world among economies with a per capita GDP north of $30,000. The current projection is that the population will decline by up to 53 percent by 2100, to 24 million, down from 37.3 million in 2020. In Seoul, the fertility rate hung at just 0.63.
China’s real estate market has been volatile, which is causing issues for home buyers. In 2005, 63 percent of new home sales were presales, meaning that buyers pay to get an apartment that can take months or years to actually build, a figure that in 2021 stood at 87 percent of new homes. This is an issue for the not-uncommon occurrence of a developer going belly up, leaving buyers who put down a massive chunk of their savings on a new place forced to either pay up to float the developer the required cash or hope that a buyer of the distressed property will get around to finishing their home. This is a big problem: 5 percent of new residential developments in China are in this state of limbo, some 71.5 million square meters of apartments.
A survey of plastic surgeons by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons finds business is booming, with 47 percent reporting slightly higher demand than before the pandemic and 23 percent saying that business has doubled. While elective plastic surgery was down 11 percent worldwide from 2019 to 2020, that pent-up demand is now being unleashed. Among patients under 30, the most commonly sought after noninvasive procedure was lip fillers, while patients 31 to 45 were more likely to pursue Botox.
Sales of LGBTQ+ fiction are up 39 percent year over year, with some 5 million units sold in 2021. One of the largest segments in that market is LGBTQ+ young adult books, which saw sales increase by fully 1.3 million units over that period, almost singlehandedly driving the growth. What once was a niche is now thoroughly mainstream, a fact that naturally has infuriated the various bigots lurking under rocks in the United States and flinging them into action. According to the PEN America Foundation, there have been 1,586 instances of books being removed from shelves from July 2021 to March 2022, and books with LGBTQ+ themes have been disproportionately banned.
In March of 2020 Congress allocated $386 million for the Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program, which offered military veterans who were unemployed by the onset of the pandemic a year of online courses that would lead to good jobs. The program, just a few months ahead of its expiration in December, has been a fiasco. About 90 schools had their approval pulled at some point in the process amid allegations of predatory practices or business problems, and despite the millions in spending the program has very little in the way of impact: As of the beginning of the month, just 6,800 veterans enrolled, and only 397 have landed new jobs.
The Age of Sail 2.0
Large maritime trade companies are looking again to vessels that harness the energy of the wind to move product, with wind-powered commercial vessels hitting the market at a remarkable clip. In addition to cutting emissions, it can also save them a bunch of money otherwise spent on fuel. By the end of this year, 25 commercial vessels, seven of which were delivered this year, will use some kind of wind power innovation, and by the end of 2023 that will hit 49 ships. One such innovation is a parafoil kite that when deployed can cut emissions by 20 percent, while another is just straight up adding 120-foot-high rigid sails to large carriers.
This week in the unlocked Sunday Edition, I spoke to Chris Geidner who launched Law Dork earlier this spring, a new newsletter all about the rapid changes happening in American courts and law. Chris is brilliant; you may recognize him from his coverage of marriage equality at the Supreme Court and his recent coverage of the changes at the nation’s top court. Geidner can be found on Twitter and at Law Dork.
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