Numlock News: December 15, 2021 • Eggs, Asteroids, Menus
By Walt Hickey
The Reason For The Season
As old as time itself, humanity has in the longest and darkest nights of winter clutched their loved ones close, and in the days following the nadir of the solstice found within themselves an urge to commemorate, to celebrate, and to spread joy, a holiday that spans millennia and cultures alike and brings a divided world closer. I’m talking, of course, about Toyotathon. But this year it’s not going to be a very merry Toyotathon, as there are pretty much no deals on cars right about now. In November, 87 percent of vehicles bought retail sold for at or above sticker price, compared to the pre-pandemic average of 36 percent of sales. Half the vehicles sold in the U.S. last month rolled off the lot less than 10 days after they rolled on, and the average amount of time a vehicle sits on the floor is a measly 19 days, down from 48 days this time in 2020. As a result, deals are scarce, but I hear it’s extremely easy to get your hands on a comically large bow.
Across the aisle, diet sodas are disappearing. Well, not disappearing precisely — in 2020 the diet carbonated drink segment hit $11.2 billion, and has grown 19.5 percent since 2018, significantly faster than regular soda which has grown at a rate of just 8.4 percent — but it’s getting subtler. People like soft drinks that don’t contain a lot of sugar, but they also have come to dislike the notion of “diet,” so beverage makers are now touting their diet offerings as “Zero Sugar” or “No Sugar” rather than wade into the psychically-loaded world of dieting. It’s working: Coca-Cola’s Coke Zero product launched a new recipe last summer, a switch that now means 23 percent of the consumers of Coke Zero Sugar are new to the beverage.
Podcasts, once a plucky form of conversational content delivery less staid that radio, have become an industry now, and the wave of product offerings and promo codes that defined the interstitials of yore are giving way to the industrial commercial might of the S&P 500 types of companies. The mattress startups, mail services (both postal and e-), manscapers, meal boxes, undergarment-mongers and shall we say pharmaceutical concoctions to empower gentlemen of lapsed means are being priced to extinction, as are the promo codes they hawked. The CPMs — the cost to reach a thousand listeners — are jumping up. It used to cost tens of thousands of dollars to get an ad on Joe Rogan’s podcast, but today Spotify wants a minimum commitment of $1 million and the CPM is north of $60. The top 10 advertisers list from October counts Capital One and Amazon among them, a sign the big companies are here to play.
According to a food industry market research firm, based on an analysis of 4,800 menus around 60 percent of restaurants in the United States reduced the size of their menu. The cut was especially big in fine dining establishments, where the number of items was down 23 percent over the course of 2021. Typically menu sizes fluctuate, usually up or down within 10 percent in a given year, but this year was different. Some of that is likely supply chain difficulties, and the 5.8 percent increase in the price of food can’t help much either, but mainly it’s been a reduction in the number of appetizers and desserts, plus some of the more expensive proteins.
A new edition of the annual religion survey from Pew Research Center found that the percentage of U.S. adults who do not have a religion has hit 29 percent, a slight increase over last year and nearly double the 16 percent seen in the 2007 edition. Non-Christian religions stayed flat — 6 percent today, 5 percent in 2007 — while the percentage of Americans who count themselves Christian decreased from 78 percent to 63 percent. Within Christianity, the vast majority of the losses are coming from Protestants, which declined from 52 percent of Americans in 2007 to 40 percent in 2021. Catholics were down only slightly — then 24 percent, now 21 percent — while Orthodox and Latter-day Saints were flat.
In 2016, a ballot measure was approved in Massachusetts that would require all pork, veal and eggs farmed and sold in the state to come from animals who had sufficient space to live. The law would go into effect in 2022, giving producers ample time to update their farming practices, particularly the egg producers who would need to ensure hens had 1.5 square feet of living space. They did not do this, and now the egg lobbyists are warning that the state will be eggless in January unless the legislature caves to their demands, namely 1 square foot per bird. Currently 90 percent of the eggs supplied to the state don’t satisfy the 1.5 square feet of living space requirement. The real holdup on passing the fix — which is supported by a House and Senate both deeply worried that Dunkin’ will no longer have those egg and cheese croissants on January 1 and they’ll be dealing with a rebellion — is over the pork requirements, with producers blaming the pandemic for their sluggish movement to the standard.
It’s Not The Fall That Hurts
A new study published in the Journal of the Geological Society sought to figure out why some asteroids hitting Earth cause mass extinctions, while some larger asteroids don’t. Basically, the fourth largest impact — a 48-kilometer-diameter crater — didn’t seem to cause a global extinction, but one half its size did, so what gives? The researchers looked at 44 asteroid impacts over 600 million years, and rather than looking just at the size of the asteroid that hit us, they looked at what was in the dust ejected on impact. They contend that it’s not actually the size of the asteroid that determines whether it’ll cause a mass extinction, rather what kind of rocks it impacts. When meteorites hit rocks rich in potassium feldspar, regardless of size, that corresponded to a mass extinction impact. The reason thought is that it can also affect cloud dynamics to let them allow more solar radiation through, which can cause a fast change to the climate. Weird, who could have ever guessed that rapid climate change could be a threat to life.
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