Numlock News: December 23, 2021 • Robusta, Osedax, The Final Buick
By Walt Hickey
In the 1980s, Buick thought they needed to make a muscle car, and the result was the Grand National. The line came to an end in the 1987 model year, with the last vehicle rolling out of the Pontiac, Michigan plant on December 11, 1987. This vehicle incidentally was also the final one produced at that historic facility, which first began producing automobiles for GM in 1927. That very vehicle — the last Buick Grand National — will be auctioned off in January. Also remarkable about the vehicle is the incredibly low mileage: the car has been kept in a climate-controlled space and rolled out for special events and documentaries, and so the odometer reads just 33 miles. It’s the perfect vehicle for the person who doesn’t want to drive a Buick, but for some reason wants to own a Buick.
The National Advertising Review Board has knocked down an appeal from Mint Mobile, and the company has agreed to stop claiming they offer “unlimited” anything in their prepaid data plan ads. In November the board ruled that a challenge from AT&T to the veracity of their claims that they offered unlimited prepaid 4G LTE and 5G plans had merit, and that Mint doesn’t actually offer unlimited data as consumers understand the term. Once a data cap of 35GB is hit — you know, a limit — speeds are throttled down to 2G. This fantasy of a world without limits is shared by many other telecoms chastened by the NARB, including Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile (speeds are throttled to 3G after hitting a 20GB cap) and Dish’s Boost Mobile.
What Dwells Below
Scientists are still figuring out what exactly happens when you sink a bunch of carbon — say, in the form of a dead whale or gator — to the bottom of the ocean. What is known is that a motley troupe of scavengers immediately sets upon the body, including gigantic isopods of a remarkable size, bone-eating worms, and more opportunistic scavengers eager to aid in the decomposition of the bounty delivered from The Light Lands. In the past 16 years alone, scientists have discovered 26 species of Osedax, which are those bone-devouring worms I was just telling you about! One study obtained three dead alligators from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fish and sank them to the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. The first gator, sunk to 2,181 meters beneath the surface, attracted eight giant isopods making quick work of the fallen reptilian. The second gator, sunk to 2,034 meters below, was checked in after six weeks to reveal amphipods, octopuses, crabs, snails, and those rad bone-worms having a go at it. The third gator, sunk to around the same depth as gator 2, vanished entirely without a trace within eight days. The scientists presumably took the hint and just started writing the results up rather than dice it on a fourth gator.
Glorified Alarm Clocks
While the holidays often see a surge in sales for Amazon’s Alexa devices, according to internal data obtained by Bloomberg, there are years when 15 percent to 25 percent of new Alexa users are no longer active within just their second week of using the device. The engagement issues described in the documents — and disputed by Amazon — show that many consumers don’t tap into the rich tapestry of features offered by the devices, instead treating them as a cylinder that can maybe set an alarm or a timer and little more. The division is costly for Amazon — in 2018, the company projected it lost $5 per device sold, and aimed to improve that to a $2 profit per unit by 2028 — but being in customers’ homes carries distinct downstream advantages; that is, as long as those customers are actually using Alexa.
A new analysis of data from bakeries compiled by Square reveals which baked goods got hot in 2021 and which ones crashed out of style. The hottest cookie was the triple chocolate cookie, which saw 2021 demand 5,393 percent higher than demand in 2019. Other hits were raisin loaf (up 4,791 percent since 2019), cake popsicles (up 3,060 percent) and white cake (up 2,361 percent since 2019). Other confections have crashed out of favor: demand for plain cowboy cookies was down 41 percent, plain doughnuts down 47 percent, spice cake down 61 percent and frosted doughnuts down 67 percent. One baked good in particular has been burned since 2019: packs of macarons, which saw demand collapse by 75 percent. Given that I’ve seen those sold almost exclusively in bougie transit station coffee stands and Atlantic City casinos, yeah I think I see why the pandemic may have dinged demand a tad.
Robusta coffee, which is best known as the varietal of coffee that tastes a little cruddier than arabica but honestly will do the job in a pinch, has seen its highest prices in a decade amid the roiling supply chain issues. Right now robusta is trading at around $2,323 per ton in London as concerns over a drop in output stemming from a fertilizer shortage pushes the B-team beans to new heights not seen since 2011. Other commodities like raw sugar, cocoa and arabica coffee have also moved higher in prices.
Power Resides Where Men Believe It Resides (In Gas Stations)
One hurdle for electric cars to overcome is the recharge rate. Gasoline pumps, despite the unfortunate climatological impacts they cause downstream, are incredibly efficient at moving energy from a tank in the ground into a car. Given an average fuel-economy car and a typical U.S. gas pump, every minute 254 miles of range is pumped into the car. With a current model “fast” direct-current charger on highways today operating at 50 kW, that rate is only 3 miles of range per minute. That’s a problem, but one that’s already being addressed: 350 kW chargers deliver 20 miles of range per minute, but the issue is that a car that can accept that amount of power doesn’t yet exist. A Mustang Mach-E can take 150 kW, the Tesla Model S can manage 250 kW, and the Porsche Taycan can get 270 kW. That said, spending money building out 350 kW stations along highways — the cost around $150,000 compared to the $100,000 for 150 kW chargers — is important before the cars that can accept them hit the road.
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