Numlock News: February 1, 2022 • Internet Dealers, Akkadians, Porpoises
By Walt Hickey
In New York, there are no fewer than six different startups — Gorillas, Jokr, Getir, Buyk, Fridge No More, Gopuff — vying to seize hegemony over an instant delivery market that they really want to believe exists. The economics of their business are borderline obscene: for Fridge No More, the average order was $33, but after the cost of goods, payments, packaging, delivery and warehousing, they lose $3.30 on every order, and that doesn’t even factor in marketing costs which in a town like New York can be murderous. The company spends $70 on advertising to win the average customer, and the average gain on that investment is… a loss of $78 per customer that stayed 10 months through September. Obviously start-up costs are considerable in any line of business, but a company that thinks they’re the next Uber may not realize that their balance sheet sure resembles the next Moviepass.
The average value of an acre of cropland in the United States hit $4,420 in 2021, up from $2,980 a decade prior and up from $2,520 per acre back in 2007. Demand for farmland is high, and in the past five months there have been record prices paid out for farmland in many places across the country. Several factors — possible tax changes, large institutions looking for hedges against inflation, inheritors not wanting the family farm and looking to cash out — have fueled the frenzy, and in the past 12 months Farmers National Company saw a 62 percent increase in acres sold.
In remote parts of Mexico, the only way to get access to the internet is through a satellite provider like StarGo, which starts at around 1,000 pesos ($48) per month. One hustle is for a person to buy the satellite connection and then sell it to their neighbors, in one internet dealer’s case for 5 to 10 pesos an hour. In the town of Arroyo Prieto in the mountainous region of Guerrero, Mexico, there are five such internet dealers. It’s an essential service for the 35 million Mexicans who lack an internet connection, a figure which encompasses 50 percent of the rural population. That satellite connection is 274 percent more expensive than a comparable fiber optic package in an urban area, which is an opportunity for dealers to dice it up into more palatable amounts of internet.
The song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Disney’s animated feature Encanto racked up 34.9 million U.S. streams, 12,300 downloads and 1.5 million radio airplay impressions to launch it to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, which is only the second time in the history of the chart that a song from a Disney animated film reached number one, the first being “A Whole New World” in 1993. It is songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first No. 1 on the Hot 100. The soundtrack as a whole is atop the Billboard Top 200 for its third week, with consumption up 11 percent. “Bruno” is joined on the Hot 100 now by six other songs from the Encanto soundtrack, “Surface Pressure” doing the best among the runners-up at No. 9. The only song actually shortlisted for an Oscar nomination, “Dos Oruguitas,” broke into the top 40 and is at No. 36 on the song ranking.
A new study had researchers attempt to track porpoise movements around a 1.5-megawatt tidal turbine to see whether the animals were intrigued or spooked by the undersea power generation equipment. Right now, the tidal energy business is small, worth $5.8 billion globally, but it’s projected to triple by 2026. From October 2017 to January 2019, the researchers’ hydrophones picked up 814 porpoise clicks, and found that the number of porpoise detections within 150 meters of the 18-meter turbine blades decreased 78 percent on flood tides and 64 percent on ebb tides, when the machinery was especially in motion. It’s not clear if this is a good thing — smart porpoises keenly avoiding turbine blades — or a bad thing — porpoise habitat stolen by blades — but it’s definitely a thing.
The Fall of Empires
An event known as the 4.2 ka BP event was a global drying out detected in many places around the world around 4,200 years ago. The precise nature of it is still controversial among researchers, as 2200 BC is roughly when we saw the Akkadian Empire die out, and a massive drought around the same time may not have been coincidental in the end of that civilization. This event is best known because of the 2002 Dwayne Johnson film The Scorpion King and its ensuing four direct-to-VHS sequels about the last remaining Akkadians, but frankly the depth of the scholarship in those films is considered ever so slightly lacking. Evidence from Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean, the Aegean Sea and the Nile all show evidence of a dying climate around the period of time as well as a collapse of central authorities. A stalagmite from Madagascar showed evidence of drying from the period between 4,320 and 3,830 BC, which would seem to be indications of a long period of drought. If you happen to know any large civilizations on the cusp of a significant shift in climate, don’t hesitate to let them know.
Federal land hosts at least 140,000 abandoned hardrock mine features, which include not just the tunnels themselves but also the toxic waste piles that resulted from their creation. That’s the official count, but officials estimate the true number is closer to 390,000. An 1872 mining law would have added a charge per ton of material that would have gone towards ameliorating the cost of mines on federal lands, but that got killed, so here we are 150 years later with a whole lot of mine and not enough money to handle them. From 2008 to 2017, the federal government spent $2.9 billion addressing hazards at abandoned mines across a handful of agencies, and the Bureau of Land Management estimates it’ll take $4.7 billion to address the 65,000 hazards on lands they administer.
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