Numlock News: December 17, 2021 • Minnesota, High Rollers, Millipedes
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
If you’re looking for last-minute gifts, this year I interviewed a bunch of authors whose books I really loved. I dropped the paywall on those interviews if you want to check them out, including Alex Davies’ Driven, Abraham Reisman’s True Believer, Sarah Frier’s No Filter, Stacey Vanek Smith’s Machiavelli for Women, and Jason Schreier’s Press Reset.
Every winter 15 million to 17 million tons of road salt are put onto U.S. roads, salt that eventually ends up in waterways, agricultural areas, ecosystems or on equipment that then erodes. The desire to find an alternative to the onslaught of salt has prompted many municipalities to experiment with new, cheap chemicals that can lower the freezing point of water and will perform just as adequately. Winnipeg expanded a 2015 beet juice experiment into a citywide policy, and Michigan, too, is turning to the humble beet to keep its pockmarked and cratered roadways clear. Minnesota spent $116 million on snow and ice operations last year, of which $9 million went to salt, but they’ve started experimenting with potassium acetate, salt brine and beet juice. Wisconsin, ever on-brand, has begun to incorporate cheese brine. Beet Heet, which is made from beet molasses, touts a significant cash advantage, with $1 of Beet Heet doing the work of $4 of rock salt.
Millipedes don’t actually have a thousand legs; that’s just branding. The most legs of any known millipede was 750 legs — that is until a group of Australian mineral explorers drilled too greedily and too deep and stirred the beast from its slumber. According to a finding published in Nature Scientific Reports, the millipede they found — Eumillipes persephone — has 1,306 legs, which obliterates the record. When born, millipedes don’t have all their legs, they add them segment by segment over time, and this species is born with only eight legs to start. While centipedes are fast predators, millipedes are detritivores, eating dead leaves, and evolving some 400 million years before their gnarlier, lesser-legged relatives.
The largest gambling market in the world, Macao, has long served Chinese high rollers, but is in the midst of a crackdown on the VIP rooms and the junket operators who get rich people into those VIP rooms. The shutdown of all VIP rooms in every casino of the six major Macao casino operators follows the arrest of the chairman of the city’s top junket companies and a change in temperament out of Beijing regarding the companies that enable China’s citizens to go offshore to gamble. On December 31, every one of the 85 junket licenses in Macao will expire, and right now there’s not a lot of indication they’ll be renewed. That’s a big issue, as junkets, which find and serve high rollers and facilitate the travel and financial logistics of a big gambling weekend in Macao, recently have accounted for the majority of Macao’s gross revenues. If the VIP rooms stay closed — there are 1,566 VIP baccarat tables in Macao — it could directly affect some 10,000 workers in Macao and indirectly impact 100,000 workers on the mainland who work for junket companies.
The no-show rate at large live music events is generally around 1 percent to 3 percent, but lately for artists like the Eagles, Billy Joel, the Flaming Lips and Dead & Company it’s risen as high as 20 percent of ticket buyers not showing up to the performance. According to Live Nation, 17 percent of tickets purchased for U.S. shows this year were not scanned in as of November 30, up from 12 percent in 2019. It could be worse — promoters doubtless would rather have an empty seat belong to a no-show than be vacant — but it’s also forcing them to change some of the math as it does materially affect merchandise, food, and beverage sales. The no-show rate tended to be highest among more established, long-running acts.
All They Can Be
The vaccination deadline for the U.S. Army was last Wednesday, and 97.9 percent of the 478,000 active duty soldiers have received at least one shot. They slightly trail the Navy, where 98 percent of their 343,000 sailors have received a shot, but beat the Air Force (97.5 percent) and Marine Corps (95 percent), which all had earlier deadlines. This past week the Air Force said it had discharged 27 airmen who had refused to get the shot. Members of the military are required to get as many as 17 vaccines depending on their deployment, including smallpox, polio and hepatitis. At press time, it’s not entirely clear if anyone bothered asking the Space Force how their vaccination drive was going.
The NBA archive of game tape — some 50,000 tapes — is located underneath a mountain in New Jersey in a facility originally built as a nuclear shelter for AT&T. Today it’s operated by Vital Records Inc., which bills itself as a data protection and data recovery firm to preserve stuff that owners really, really would like to survive absolutely anything. The NBA’s archive — which is the world’s largest collection of basketball highlights — clocks in at 37 petabytes of data, twice the size of the digital collections of the Library of Congress and growing at a steady clip given the multiple petabytes of data added every season from 12 different HD video cameras at every game.
Staring At The Sun
The Parker Solar Probe, a $1.5 billion spacecraft launched in 2018, has been in orbit around the sun in an attempt to get a better look at the star. It’s covered in a carbon-composite heat shield that can protect the instruments past the 1,370 degrees Celsius they’ll soon have to endure. Back in April, the spacecraft entered the outer atmosphere of the sun, a feat announced this week. As it crossed the Alfvén surface, 14 million kilometers from the surface of the sun, it passed into the corona of the star for around five hours where wind speed and plasma density drops and, having had its fill, popped out of it. The full goal of the Parker probe is to make 24 close passes, and the boundary crossing in April was the eighth of those flybys. The ninth flyby happened in November, but the data is still en route and under analysis. The closest approach will be in 2025.
This week, another podcast version of the Sunday edition. I spoke to Surya Mattu and Aaron Sankin, who wrote Crime Prediction Software Promised to Be Free of Biases. New Data Shows It Perpetuates Them for The Markup. It was a great conversation about a bombshell data story. Mattu and Sankin can each be found on Twitter, there’s a bunch of data for this story they’ve uploaded to GitHub if you’re interested in getting hands on with it, and you can read more about how they pulled this off here.
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2021 Sunday subscriber editions: Billboard records · Black Friday · Natural Gas · PEDs in Hollywood · Machiavelli for Women · Weather Supercomputers · TKer · Sumo Wrestling · Giant clams · Instagram · Remote Work · Latinos · Vapes · Smoke · Jeopardy! · Mangoes · BBLs · Summer Box Office ·