Numlock News: February 24, 2023 • Ice Cream, Wrestling, Bicycling
By Walt Hickey
Have an excellent weekend!
Unilever is a titan of the ice cream industry, and owns most of the 3 million chest freezers in corner stores, gas stations and bodegas that hawk its wares, which include Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum. The energy to power those freezers is estimated to account for 10 percent of Unilever’s greenhouse gas footprint, and right now the company is investigating ways to reformulate its ice cream to survive at 10 degrees Fahrenheit rather than the industry standard of 32 below freezing. If it works, and the freezers only need to be kept at 10 degrees, that’d cut 20 percent to 30 percent of energy use. The R&D involved is intense; how to get ice cream to maintain structural integrity and not just slide off sticks or make cones all soggy is a complicated quest.
The 2022 edition of a report on First Nation language usage in British Columbia, Canada, has been released, and the changes seen since a previous report in 2018 are both concerning but also optimistic. The number of fluent speakers of First Nations languages in the province declined from 4,132 to 3,370 speakers since 2018, largely the result of the deaths of older fluent speakers. In 2020, 61.9 percent of fluent speakers were over the age of 65. As for the good news, the number of learners is up over 20 percent, up from 13,997 in 2018 to 17,103 learners in 2022, which is encouraging for the potential future of the languages.
A new survey asking people how they research major news events found that in general, people of different generations largely get their news in mostly the same way, with Google Search being the most popular and the various inter-generational differences being fairly close and also pretty much exactly what you’d imagine. There is, however, an exception: Among the youngest adults, those in Gen Z, 39 percent said they did their news research on Google Search — 7 percentage points lower than adults as a whole — while 14 percent said they do their news research on TikTok, which is 12 percentage points higher than adults as a whole. This is a fascinating delineation, and shows what happens when an entire generation spends their formative years with Google Search being fundamentally crappy and too bogged down in SEO and ads to actually be useful for researching anything.
Americans are more active than they were six years ago, with the percentage of Americans who do no physical activities at all declining from 27.3 percent in 2017 to 22.4 percent in 2022. The effect was most remarkable among kids and among those over the age of 65. About 51.7 percent of the country participates in at least one particular physical activity with frequency. Comparing the growth in popularity of different specific sports from 2019 to today, individual and racquet-based sports are up big, including bicycling (up 10.6 percent), trail running (up 21 percent), skateboarding (up 36 percent), surfing (up 25 percent), and naturally pickleball (up 159 percent). Interestingly, tennis participation was up 33 percent, and added 6 million new participants since 2019, more than the 5.5 million who picked up pickleball over the same period. Less popular over the course of the pandemic are various group aerobics, including stationary cycling, cross-training, and boot camp-style training.
One of the most racially diverse programs on television is professional wrestling, which often prominently features Black, Latino, and Asian or Pacific Islander leads at a rate that exceeds the broader television picture. Sure, professional wrestling has a remarkable history in which for decades demeaning racial and ethnic stereotypes were downright the norm, but the situation has markedly improved and the audience in many ways bears that out. Among the general cable primetime average audience, 14 percent are Black, 12 percent are Hispanic, and 69 percent are white. For WWE Smackdown, 25 percent of the audience is Black, 14 percent Hispanic, and 55 percent white.
The data is in, and this year’s flu shot was excellent, providing better protection than in previous years. One flu surveillance network found that adults who got a flu shot were 44 percent less likely to visit an emergency room or urgent care center and were 39 percent less likely to be hospitalized due to the flu or complications. In the 2021-22 flu season a year ago, that effectiveness was 25 percent. Overall, the 2022-23 flu shot cut the risk of hospitalization by three quarters among children. This year’s flu peaked earlier than typical, with November seeing hospitalization rates that usually aren’t seen until January.
New York state is the largest direct subsidizer of for-profit college tuition in the country, forking over $33.7 million in need-based grants to students at for-profit schools in the 2020-21 academic year. Many of those schools have come under scrutiny for subpar teaching and exploitative business practices, but nevertheless roughly half of states subsidized tuition for them. New York beat out the significantly larger California, which awarded $27.6 million to students at for-profit schools. For-profit schools and the organizations that represent their political interests have had serious success in Albany, with a 2019 proposal to have stricter rules regarding the kind of schools that receive such subsidized tuition getting annihilated in the legislature, and no similar measure making its way back since. A study from the Center for an Urban Future found that for-profit students made up 41 percent of borrowers who defaulted after five years in New York despite making up only 6 percent of undergrads in the Empire State.
Last week in the Sunday edition I spoke to Kim Bhasin, who wrote “A Billionaire’s Son Battles a Turbulent WWE Over the Future of Pro Wrestling” for Bloomberg Businessweek. Wrestling is in the midst of a fascinating moment, as one empire hits the auction block and another rises, both fueled by oodles of cash from networks and streaming services desperate to get appointment television on their schedules. Kim can be found on Twitter and at Bloomberg where he covers celebrity and athlete business deals.
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Correction February 24, 2023: 0 degrees Fahrenheit is 32 below freezing, not freezing itself.