Numlock News: February 10, 2022 • Solar Storm, Sour, Government Grass
By Walt Hickey
The Bureau of Land Management announced that federal grazing fees for 2022 would be $1.35 per unit per month, the same rate as 2019, when the fee was dropped from $1.41 per unit per month. One animal unit is either one horse, or five sheep, or one cow and calf. The 18,000 Bureau of Land Management permits and leases and 6,250 Forest Service permits allow ranchers to eat federal grass for the right price, fees that go towards rangeland and improvement funds. Grazing fees can’t increase or decrease more than 25 percent each year, and the fees have since 1981 ranged from $1.35 to $2.31 and averaged $1.55 over the time. If the 1981 fee of $2.31 per unit had kept pace with inflation it’d be worth $7.61 today.
A new study of the 1,400 streets across the United States that have the names of prominent leaders of the Confederacy found that homes with those addresses sell for 3 percent less on average than homes of similar sizes and age on nearby streets. For a $240,000 sale on a Confederate block, the difference averages out to a $7,000 loss. The study specifically looked at 6,000 sales on 1,400 streets named after Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, “Confederate” and “Dixie” from 2001 to 2020. Who could have possibly foreseen that the brand of the Confederacy would be associated with failure.
The Pentagon announced they would be pulling out of a long-running boondoggle the military’s been engaged in for far too long, by announcing that the video game America’s Army: Proving Grounds will shut down its online multiplayer function, ending a 20-year journey for the America’s Army franchise. The games first launched in July of 2002 as a recruiting tool, and in August 2013 the Proving Grounds game released on PS4 and Windows PC, where the player got to invade Czervenia and complete objectives. A decade on, the concurrent user average on Steam finally dipped below 200 last June. The last time there were more than 1,000 people playing the game simultaneously was June 2017. If only there were literally any other video game for those poor users where they could pretend to be soldiers.
SpaceX launched 49 Starlink internet satellites last week, but a surprise geomagnetic storm caused by the sun belching out plasma and magnetic fields hit 40 of the satellites and caused them to fall out of orbit. The storm warmed up the atmosphere and pushed atmospheric drag up to 50 percent higher than during previous launches, which prevented the satellites from getting out of safe mode and reaching stable orbit. At some point up to 40 will fall back to Earth and burn up.
In 2021, 12.7 percent of directors of the top-grossing films of the year were women, which is seriously encouraging news: While down from the 15 percent of 2020 and only slightly up from the 10.7 percent of 2019, it’s a sign that the gains sustained over the past three years are a durable thing. Across the past 15 years, 5.4 percent of directors were women, and as recently as 2018 only 4.5 percent of the directors of the top-performing films of the year were women. And while that’s far from the ideal, lots of the trouble historically in terms of representation has been sustaining the gains that were made. The percentage of directors who were from an underrepresented group in general was up to 27.3 percent in 2021, well above the 14.8 percent average of the past fifteen years.
While in the most general sense it’s understood that long-term lithium is going to be an increasingly critical precursor of the global economy, precisely how increasingly is a rather dicey question. The forecasts of six different lithium forecasters — Liberum, Bank of America, BMO Capital, Citi, Fitch and Benchmark Mineral Intelligence — are super inconsistent. In 2025, the market for lithium could range from either a deficit of 13 percent in demand to a surplus of 17 percent. The demand forecast itself is similarly erratic, with demand projected to be anywhere from 502,000 tons to 1.3 million tons.
Sour taste is a bit of an enigma: Detecting sweetness has a clear evolutionary advantage in finding calories, salt for fluid balance, bitterness for avoiding dangerous poison, umami for protein, and sour for, well, it’s not actually all that clear? A new study tried to track the evolutionary origins, looking at sour taste sensation across 33 species of mammals and six species of bird, as well as fish and amphibians and reptiles and whether they like or dislike it. Acids can be tasted and are even sought out by other similar primates — which is convenient because ancestors stopped producing vitamin C between 60 million and 70 million years ago — but plenty of mammals dislike the taste. No backboned animal in that study was found to have lost the ability to detect and identify acidic foods, meaning that there must be some advantage or, at least, no clear disadvantage.
Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic and Hannah E. R. Frank, Katie Amato, Michelle Trautwein, Paula Maia, Emily R. Liman, Lauren M. Nichols, Kurt Schwenk, Paul A. S. Breslin and Robert R. Dunn, Proceedings of the Royal Society B
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