Numlock News: December 8, 2023 • Rockets, Reactors, Christmas Trees
By Walt Hickey
The dream of Quibi is alive in China, where filmmakers and production companies dive in on shows and television series produced directly for phones. These apps include ReelShort, DramaBox, 99TV and GoodShort, and many of them are now looking to export their wares internationally. Costs are cheap — budgets are about $200,000 per series — and the shows go for a light vibe, often featuring love triangles and underdogs and whatnot. The decision to try to get interest in these shows from abroad isn’t entirely about growth, as regulators in China took down 25,300 vertical streaming shows over a three-month period starting last November.
A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences seeks to settle a longstanding debate over the impact that bacteria body size has on their swimming speed. The controversy comes down to whether the bigger size causes more resistance in the fluid for larger bacteria, slowing them down. To solve that question, researchers followed 25,000 E. coli cells with scans every 0.1 milliseconds to see what kind of speed we’re talking here. All of the bacteria, which ranged from 2 microns to 6 microns in size, were clocked to swim at a speed of 20 microns per second regardless of how big they were.
Farmed salmon are susceptible to infestations of sea lice, a troublesome parasite that exists in the wild but utterly thrives in the densely-packed pens of salmon that make up farms. In the wild, a sea louse here or there is an annoyance for an adult fish, but can be deadly for juveniles. The issue can be when a sea lice infestation spills over from the pens into the wild fish population. A study compared the regulations over the pests across four countries and the impact that has on their salmon populations. Norway requires fish farmers to file weekly reports on sea lice, and operators have to delouse their fish stock upon finding one adult female louse per every five fish, the lowest threshold of the bunch. Scottish operators must treat fish once they hit six lice per fish, and in Ireland they’re capped to a limit of two lice per fish except during wild salmon migration season, when it’s capped at one louse per fish. Canada, which has had clashes over the ramifications of farmed salmon, has the weakest requirements.
In 1980, Christian ministers who wanted to run private schools got the state of Louisiana to deregulate private education and make it so that schools don’t actually have to get state approval or get state-certified teachers to dole out diplomas. The number of students enrolled in unapproved private schools in Louisiana has risen sharply, from 11,555 in the 2017-18 school year up to 21,142 students this school year. Some schools essentially serve as resources for homeschooling families, and some just charge fixed dollar amounts for diploma services or a graduation ceremony.
China is emerging as a major producer of new nuclear reactors as the country tries to get off coal. Right now China operates 55 reactors, and they’re building a whole bunch of them: Of the 58 nuclear reactors currently under construction around the world, 22 of them are in China. The country is also trying to compete with Russia and the United States when it comes to exporting nuclear plant tech, and submitted an offer to Saudi Arabia for their first civil nuclear plant that’s 20 percent cheaper than the offers submitted by South Korea and France.
Christmas trees are a massive business, with 3,000 tree farms across the United States selling on the order of 12 million trees per year and another 3 million natural trees imported each year on top of that, in addition to the overwhelming 20 million artificial trees imported annually as well. The price of an imported tree, artificial or natural, at wholesale prices was $22 last year, so given that the general price range for a tree was between $80 and $100 in 2022, that would indicate that your typical markup on a Christmas tree is something like 400 to 500 percent. Across 15 million natural trees and 20 million artificial trees sold, you’re talking a $3 billion annual business in trees.
Space launches are in hot demand these days, as rivals to SpaceX have seen impediments emerge to their rocket programs. Europe’s Ariane 6 rocket has been delayed from 2020 to June or July of 2024, and lots of satellites that wanted to hitch a ride on the Ariane 6 have had to pivot to India’s space agency or SpaceX to get the thing into orbit. As of early 2023, there were 7,500 satellites orbiting the Earth. By the end of 2030, that’s projected to jump up to 27,000. That said, there might not be enough rockets to get those satellites past those notoriously surly bonds of Earth; the shortfall of rocket capacity over the course of the next two years is expected to be as high as 11,700 tons of payload, which is the equivalent of 300 heavy vehicles or 800 medium vehicles not making it to space.
This week in the Sunday edition, I spoke to Chris Dalla Riva, who wrote “Is the Grammy for Best New Artist Cursed?” for Can’t Get Much Higher. Chris’s newsletter is awesome, I really enjoy it, he’s doing reliably compelling stuff in the music data journalism space and I really loved this angle on a musical curse. We talked about who gets thanked at the Grammy’s, what Billboard rankings still matter, how what makes a hit changed and the fierce fight for this year’s holiday music number one. Chris can be found atCan't Get Much Higher.
Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.