Numlock News: December 9, 2020 • Siblings, Time, Bull
By Walt Hickey
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The Federal Communication Commission doled out $9.2 billion in awards to a number of different companies as part of its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program, which funds broadband access to rural areas. This time around there’s a newcomer among the awardees, with SpaceX receiving $886 million over the next decade for its Starlink satellite broadband service. This constellation — currently 900 satellites, but poised to grow to a planned 12,000 — will fly in low orbit and provide internet to the people below, conceptually. Somewhere between 24 million and 163 million people lack broadband in the U.S.
The Federal Trade Commission has sued RagingBull.com LLC, seeking court orders to freeze company assets and halt what the government alleges is an ongoing fraud scheme that has bilked $137 million out of consumers in the past three years. The FTC’s legal filing said that the company has fueled its operations by putting money into what it calls deceptive marketing, using celebrities like Jose Canseco and Jordan Belfort — the latter of whom was the basis for the film The Wolf of Wall Street, and the former of whom admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs across a modest career in Major League Baseball — to hawk their trading services. At least 220 consumers filed complaints against the company with the FTC, Better Business Bureau, or a state attorney general.
Mount Everest is 29,031.69 feet above sea level, according to the combined research of the Survey Department of Nepal and Chinese authorities who set out to determine the precise height of the mountain. That’s two feet higher than the previous altitude recognized by Nepal, and the first analysis of the mountain’s height since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the area in 2015.
This year saw explosive growth for OnlyFans, a booming media business that enables popular content producers to charge fans for access to videos and photos. The initial use case for this was, like all truly great internet advancements, the dissemination of pornography, and coupled with lockdowns and an otherwise troubling year, the service has grown considerably and branched out from its initial user base of independent adult content producers to creators of all stripes. The company is adding 500,000 users per day and paying out $200 million per month to creators, which is more than the Senate can say. It’s got 85 million users, 1 million creators and will generate $2 billion in sales this year. By comparison, the more staid incumbent Patreon has a valuation of $1.2 billion.
When oxygen levels in the cabin of a plane drop below 19 percent, bad things happen to people and to animals. This is worrisome because people — and in some incredibly rare cases, I imagine, animals — are in charge of flying planes. The oxygen levels in planes was not an incredibly crucial topic of discussion until the day came when we needed to load up planes with vaccines and, more specifically, with the sublimating dry ice used to keep those vaccines frozen. As the frozen carbon dioxide sublimates into normal, suffocating carbon dioxide, it could pose health issues to crew, and that’s a topic of review for the Federal Aviation Administration and airlines. Delta has said it’s been cleared to double the load of dry ice on A330 and A350 jets, and can carry six times as much when it’s in the suitcase-sized storage container Pfizer designed. United Airlines has been approved to carry 15,000 pounds per flight, up from 3,000 pounds, in chartered cargo flights between Brussels and O’Hare.
A study of 33 sports in Canada and Australia comparing elite athletes and near-elite athletes found that the great ones were more likely to be later-born children, the younger siblings who became top in their field. Elite athletes had 1.04 older siblings on average, while non-elite athletes had just 0.61, and as a non-athletic eldest sibling, it is incredibly difficult for me to not take this study personally. A 2010 study of 700 pairs of MLB brothers found the younger brothers were 2.5 times as likely as their elders to be better batters, and ended up playing an average 2.5 years longer. Why do the spares outdo the heirs? Part of it may be a better likelihood of seeing a field to begin with: younger siblings are 40 percent more likely to be allowed to play dangerous contact sports than older siblings, thus having more opportunities to reveal their talents.
A new study sponsored by Lyft analyzed an experiment done by the rideshare company on 3.7 million customers to find out the value of time. The researchers altered wait times and prices to find when people requested rides, all in an attempt to determine the amount of money those users were willing to pay to wait less time for a lift. A 1997 Department of Transportation study valued personal travel time at what would be $14 per hour today, but the Lyft estimate came in north of that at $19 per hour. Not all hours are made equal, though: during peak commute times, the figure is about 50 percent higher than in non-peak times.
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