Numlock News: August 29, 2019 • Wolves, Vodka, Atom Smashers
By Walt Hickey
Hokkaido in Japan is home to 600,000 deer, which lead to 2,000 car accidents per year, consume up to five pounds of plant matter per day, and damage all sorts of crops. A 2015 estimate of the damage to Japan’s forests from wildlife said 77 percent was attributable to deer, resulting in $53 million worth of damage. The population has simply exploded. Part of that is due to the extinction of the Ezo wolf in 1889 and the Honshu wolf in 1905. Japan is now considering my personal single favorite type of policy intervention, specifically, “hear me out what if we reintroduced wolves.” Opposition to re-introducing wolves fell from 44 percent to just 11 percent among residents between 1993 and 2016, though advocates are finding an abundance of indifference — 45 percent at the latest — about the policy proposal. Even I concede that there are very few single-issue voters on the “re-introduce wolves” debate, though all sorts of issues — deforestation, depletion of agriculture, habitat resilience, heck even truancy if you play it right — can be solved with several wolves.
Better Living Through Chemistry
While legal marijuana has become abundant in some states, research-grade cannabis for clinical studies is a different story in the United States. All the marijuana for scientific research in the U.S. comes from a University of Mississippi farm operated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, but three years ago the DEA said it would license more growers to facilitate research. Though 33 groups have applied, authorities have slow-rolled the adaptation of that policy. A lawsuit by one of the researchers led to a court order, which in turn led to a DEA announcement Monday that a review will begin soon. The number of people registered to research marijuana with the DEA has increased from 384 in 2017 to 542 official cannabis researchers this year, and demand for research — particularly into ways that cannabis can help veterans and those who suffer from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder — has risen as well.
Sales of Vodka grew only 1.6 percent in the U.S. last year and just 36 percent over the past decade, trailing the 63 percent sales growth of domestic whiskey and 75 percent growth for tequila. Brands are looking for answers and have found the answer: wellness. Big vodka brands are pushing the messaging that a vodka soda has fewer calories than a glass of wine. They’re also looking back into flavored vodkas, but with a lighter touch: think “Ketel One with a light botanical touch” rather than the “it’s noon and my mouth still tastes like maraschino cherries and Burnett’s” that plagued so many of us in college. Flavored vodka saw volume drop by 500,000 cases over the past two years.
Fog of Uncertainty
Vaping could have health consequences previously unknown, based on reports to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. So far, there have been 193 potential vaping-related illnesses in 22 states. I know it’s impossible to have foreseen that ripping cotton and spewing massive clouds of fog could have any deleterious health impacts. Who could have ever guessed that inhaling nicotine-laced solvents and dubiously sourced chemicals evaporated with cutting-edge technology sourced from gasoline stations and non-”https” internet sites could have been risky? The FDA’s unique decision to not regulate the devices in any serious fashion has had enormous consequences: in 2010, a federal judge said the FDA should regulate e-cigs as tobacco products, but it wasn’t actually until May 2016 that they formally did, at which point vapes were a $4.1 billion market that now is projected to be worth $48 billion globally by 2023.
Alchemy, But Legit
The bottom part of the periodic table is chock-full of synthetic elements, many of which existed only for a fraction of a second in a laboratory. This is a lengthy process that skews toward discovery rather than analysis — labs want to create new elements, the incentive to instead apply their dollars and cyclotrons to the analysis of existing synthetic elements isn’t huge — and it’s pricey. Hiromitsu Haba, a nuclear chemist in Japan, said it took $3 million over nine years to create just three atoms of element 112, during which time only 200 days were spent on actual experiments. Big, synthetic atoms are made by mashing smaller, existing elements together, and sometimes those precursors are rare and expensive themselves. So while elements 119 and 120 are probably within reach, this branch of physics today is basically just using an atom smasher to convert several million dollars and some nuclear byproducts into attention and prestige.
A new report from an investment firm estimates that on a per-order basis, Uber loses $3.36 every single time someone gets a meal delivered through their Uber Eats service. That per-order loss is further projected to shrink to $0.46 per order by 2024, but, again, I remind you there is technically a negative sign in front of that and losing money for at least five more years has got to be tough to stomach. Uber paid out $253 million more to Eats drivers than it pulled in during the second quarter. So don’t think of Uber Eats as a meal delivery service, think of it more as a logistics company that finds the most optimal setup to distribute a billion extra dollars every year to delivery guys.
There is a primary election happening, or at least there will be primary elections in about a half-year and candidates are laying down so much money on digital platforms that it’s actually driving up prices for the entirety of lefty politics. In the three month period ending August 14, advertisers blasting out political messages spent $92 million online, up 24 percent from the previous period. Nearly two dozen well-funded contenders trying to reach the same group of people threw the ad market into whack, with clients of Democratically-allied digital firms seeing cost per conversions double, triple or even more as they have to out-bid flush presidential contenders.
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