Numlock News: December 1, 2021 • Sloths, Antarctica, Raiders
By Walt Hickey
Westpac, an Australian bank, will pay 113 million Australian dollars (81 million USD) and $57 million (USD) in compensation to customers as part of a series of investigations into the business practices of the bank — chiefly, that the bank charged $7 million in fees to 11,000 customers over a 10-year period. Normally that’s just good bank operation, but in this case the problem was that all 11,000 of those customers were dead, and the fees were related to financial advice services that were obviously not rendered. Westpac last year made headlines when it paid a $930 million fine related to a breach in money laundering laws.
Costa Rica has urbanized rapidly, with the population growing five-fold from 1950 to 2000, and with 70 percent of the population living in cities as of 2016. Cities have sprawled, forests have been, well, deforested, and developed areas have seen increased interactions with animals on roadways. The specific animals in question are sloths, which to some notoriety cross streets with slightly less alacrity than other mammals. That’s one reason the Sloth Conservation Foundation has built over 130 stringed ropes above roads that they can crawl across in around three minutes, rather than the interminable amount of time they’d otherwise spend dragging themselves across the street. This is a cheap fix — about $200 per sloth rope — that keeps the sloths safe and the traffic moving.
eBay has bought Sneaker Con, a company that verifies the provenance of collectable sneakers. The online auction site first started working with Sneaker Con in 2020, and since then 1.55 million sneakers sold on the platform have been vetted by the company. When certain sneakers sell for north of $100, the shoes are routed through Sneaker Con, which investigates the provenance and authenticates them before shipping them ahead to the buyer. The volume of work is only going to get larger, with 1.9 million sneakers available on eBay every day.
The Thanksgiving game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Las Vegas Raiders averaged 37.84 million viewers on CBS, up 23 percent over last year and the single largest tune-in for an NFL regular season game since the Thanksgiving Cowboys-Dolphins game in 1993. Viewers watched a bunch more television this year than last year, with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to 25 million between live air and an afternoon replay, the early NFL game up 14 percent over last year, and a Major League Soccer game logging 1.85 million viewers on Fox, the single most-watched English language MLS match since 2004 and approximately six times the viewership of the league average tune-in.
The Beyond EPICA project is drilling an ice core in Antarctica with the goal of getting a three kilometer-deep ice core that will help get a record of Earth’s climate going back 1.5 million years. The initial project — the EPICA project — helped the researchers develop a climate temperature record that extended back 800,000 years. The site is on the East Antarctic plateau around 1,000 kilometers from the coast, a site with an altitude of 3,223 meters above sea level where temperatures rarely get above -35 C. That remoteness is key, as the little air bubbles trapped in the ice over the millennia form an important time capsule of the atmospheric conditions of the time they were frozen. They’re especially interested in the period between 900,000 and 1.2 million years ago, when the period over which the climate changes naturally unexpectedly changed from a 41,000-year cycle to a 100,000-year cycle. Best of luck to the group, and the mysterious, shape-shifting alien who recently joined their number.
The price of batteries fell 6 percent in 2021 to $132 per kilowatt-hour, down from $140 per kilowatt-hour in 2020. That’s a bit of a disappointment, as last year BloombergNEF projected that it’d fall 9 percent over the course of the year. That $8 per kilowatt-hour fall is substantially less than the $21 decline the previous year, the $24 the year prior to that, and $41 annual decline the year before that. Still, battery prices have made serious strides in the past decade, down from $946 per kilowatt-hour in 2011 to the considerably lower prices seen today.
Every year, researchers out of Boston University survey the mayors of the largest U.S. cities to gauge what’s grinding municipalities. This year’s survey of 126 mayors found that, despite incessant worries about shifts to remote work and people moving to the suburbs affecting cities, those aren’t actually serious concerns. Only 2 percent of mayors cited a concern about remote work changing their city, and just 7 percent were worried about outmigration. What’s really worrying them is the mental drain on their citizens: 52 percent cited mental health and trauma as the pandemic long-term consequence they were most worried about, and 37 percent cited the toll on students.
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