Numlock News: December 5, 2019 • Songbirds, Cruise ships, Trashcans
By Walt Hickey
Cruiseliner companies are lining up to chop their ships in half. The process is called “stretching,” and it’s when you take a cruise ship that’s been in service for many years, split it in half, insert a prefabricated midsection and perhaps swap out the engines and then weld it back together. It takes something like $175 million to build a ship that can hold over 300 passengers, but stretching an older one to dial up capacity costs an average of $80 million. The math is easy for a company like Windstar, which can add 150 suites to an existing ship — each of which go for $450 to $550 per person per night — and add $49.2 million in annual revenue. It also gives them a chance to replace old engines that no longer meet International Maritime Organization emissions standards.
A study in Geophysical Research Letters looked at the historical accuracy of climate forecasting models to answer a thorny question: how good are people at forecasting the climate long term? That’s been a considerable point of contention, at least in the political realm, with detractors of climate science arguing that the predictive models run hot, that is to say they forecast more warming compared to what actually ends up happening. The authors of the new study found 17 climate models from 1970 to 1990, all of which estimated carbon dioxide concentrations and what the global average temperature would be in the future. Of those 17 climate models, 14 correctly predicted how much the earth would warm based on atmospheric CO2 concentrations, while just one “ran hot” and predicted more warming per CO2 concentration and two “ran cold” and predicted less. That’s remarkably good predictive accuracy, especially because the climate modelers then were relying on much less computational power.
I actually want to take a second to plug Emily’s newsletter Heated, it’s a personal favorite of mine. She covers climate change and its root causes and focuses on the big, systemic reasons we’re in this situation. It’s really readable, and she even scores big interviews like John Kerry this past week, it’s fairly new and totally worth checking out.
New York will soon be full of thousands of new trash receptacles, and no, I’m not talking about SantaCon next week. The city has finally completed a year-and-a-half long bake-off to determine the trashcan of the future and, people, we have a winner. It’s a sleek design from Group Project with a removable plastic sheath that weighs 10 pounds — a big slim down from the current 30 pound inner receptacle — with a bar across the top, that is billed as a critical defensive system against people who throw large household trash in public litter cans. That’s right, this puppy is the winner of a fierce competition that ended in a gauntlet of testing with razor thin requirements, such as needing to cost less than $175 each in a bulk order, the ability to survive at least three years, and the resilience to withstand being tipped in the back of a truck at minimum 2,650 times. The design marvel will replace 23,000 existing public litter baskets, and I give it a minimum of six weeks before society discovers a critical design flaw that, say, makes it splash back discarded street juice or serve as an ideal rat aphrodisiac love shack.
The ways to finagle cheap flights are the stuff of legend on traveler internet forums, but one way is guaranteed to work: just wait until a rival airline opens up a new direct flight on an existing route. For instance, Hawaiian and Alaska airlines have a nonstop flight between San Diego and Maui. On April 1, 2020 the lowest round trip fare will go for about $818. But on April 14, Southwest Airlines will start a flight on that route, and a pricing spot check found the lowest round trip two weeks after that will go for just $303. An analysis of 50 trillion itineraries from 2017 to 2019 found that the average price drop when a low-cost carrier muscled in on an existing flight route was 17 percent. That led to a demand jump of 30 percent, because of that whole supply and demand thing. Next year, once the Boeing 737 MAX is back on the market, expect lots of these cheaper flights as new routes open up and competition heats up.
Rub A Dub Dub
Freestanding tubs are most definitely in, back with a vengeance after many years when the market preferred using precious bathroom space for a larger shower. As recently as 2017, homeowners were ripping out tubs and replacing them with spiffier showers, but bathtubs staged a major comeback. Last year, the 2018 American Institute of Architects’ design survey found 34 percent of respondents believed freestanding tubs were increasing in popularity. Another recent survey found people are putting serious dough into bathrooms as well, spending 2.4 times as much to remodel a master bath as they do their living rooms.
Every year, thousands of migrating songbirds die when they collide with high-rise buildings in Chicago. Researchers have collected these birds over the decades, and have used them as a way of tracking changes in the health and appearance of the species. One compelling new study analyzes 52 species of birds from 1978 to 2016. The ornithologists have found that in general the birds are getting smaller and their wingspan is getting larger, in keeping with the expectation that animals in warmer climates tend to be smaller than their counterparts in colder climates. The proxy for size — length of the tarsus leg bone — decreased by 2.4 percent across all 52 species, and the wing length rose 1.3 percent in 40 of those species.
Airbnb deactivated somewhere between 3,000 to 5,000 listings in Boston as of Sunday amid a new municipal law that requires hosts to register with the city. Earlier this year there were some 6,000 listings in Boston, but right now just 737 short-term rentals have been registered and approved by the city. The law, which went into effect December 1, was the target of a lawsuit from Airbnb that ended in a settlement last August. The company plans to go public in 2020, and as a result has spent a considerable amount of time in 2019 defusing or conceding on a number of disagreements it’s had with cities about short-term rental rules, the corporate equivalent of when a kid is moderately more well-behaved when Santa is a week away.
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Correction: An earlier version stated that a study appeared in Nature when it actually appeared in Geophysical Research Letters.
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