Numlock News: February 25, 2022 • Elephant Seals, Craft Lager, Finland
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
On Wednesday, bidding opened up for six tracts of land slated for development as offshore wind farms off the coast of New York and New Jersey, with the bids reaching $1.5 billion as of that evening. That was already good enough to be the largest auction of wind real estate, but then the Thursday bids came in and the current cumulative winning bids are up to $3.2 billion for the half a million acres of ocean. The bidding resumes this morning at 9 a.m. The auction is overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and when fully developed the sites are projected to power 2 million homes.
In 2018, the KJV Bible app was first launched, and has now become the most popular Christian app on the planet. In January alone it was downloaded 5 million times on Android. It’s the third-most downloaded app in Nigeria and the fourth-most in Ghana. Here’s the thing, though: Its ownership has been an enigma. An investigation traced it to a mid-sized mobile gaming company called Lexin Shengwen in Hong Kong which owns seven Christian-oriented apps and has had 24 apps pulled from the App Store since 2016. A $4.99 premium subscription allows the faithful to avoid having to watch a pop-up video ad when they press “Amen.” It’s a contender in the surprisingly cutthroat industry of bible apps, competing against the YouVersion Bible, based out of a megachurch in Oklahoma with some 500 million downloads, which is particularly dominant in the Philippines.
Scientists have recruited elephant seals to serve as submersible spies, attaching recording devices to the mammals right before they embark on a massive trans-oceanic journey in the hopes that the seals will be able to eavesdrop on whales and other marine life. Next week marine biologists at the University of California Santa Cruz will begin equipping three elephant seals with $5,000 recording devices, the marine biology equivalent of Q equipping James Bond with a spiffy new instrument of espionage right before he flies to some far-flung locale. In the seal’s case, their journey will take 75 days, a quarter of the way to Japan, at which point they’ll turn around and return back to the same beach they left from. The scientists will get about 40 days of audio out of the batteries, and perhaps that will be enough intelligence to beat Ernst Stavro Bivalve and the evil ORCA organization.
Well, well, well, look who’s come crawling back. Sure, you beer nerds spend years dissing the lighter beers of the world, trying to find the most stalwart IPAs one can craft, homebrewing hops so forward a sip of brew tasted like weed, and into this drink you poured your malt, your hops and your will to dominate all life, one beer to rule them all, and just look at yourselves now. You’re asking for lagers again! Just like all the wimps who never joined you on your 10 percent ABV journey to the ridiculous extremities of the IBU scale have been for the past decade, and who got nothing but scorn for it. Sales of craft lager were up 9.4 percent in the year leading up to November 2020, reaching $501 million, a trend that has only accelerated with 93 new brands of lager hitting the beer market last year, behind only new IPAs.
Americans are less mobile than ever. A study looking at Americans who say they intend to move from their current location are 45 percent less likely to actually do so than the same people who said as much in the 1970s, and the annual rate of residential mobility has been steadily declining since the mid-’80s, when around one in five Americans moved in a given year. That’s rapidly closing in on just one in ten moving in a given year, a fraction of the 40 percent of Americans who moved year over year in the 1800s. That stagnation has a lot of causes, but declining economic mobility is one clear one.
Most advanced economies have seen their birthrates drop to historically low levels, but during the pandemic that trend was bucked by a number of Northern European countries. In Finland, the number of live births increased 6.7 percent, in Norway they increased 5.5 percent, in Iceland they were up 7.5 percent, in Denmark 4.2 percent and in Sweden they were up 1 percent. This Nordic baby boom — in addition to giving them an incalculably great edge in the 2042 Winter Olympic Games — is of major interest to researchers trying to contend with demographic shifts in much of the developed world. The likely culprit is the excellent social safety net and pro-parent policies like free health care, extended parental leave, subsidized childcare and high spending on family benefits.
Bayer will release Short Stature Corn in 2023 for 150 early adopters of the new genetically modified variety of corn. The commercial launch will come in 2024, and the full rollout will come by 2027. The conceit is simple: Normal hybrids of corn are 9 to 11 feet tall. That opens up all sorts of difficulties, like the fact that the center of gravity is rather high up and that means that it’s easier for a plant to be destroyed by being knocked over. The new bioengineered corn is 6 to 8 feet tall, which comes with the perks of not only being sturdier but also making the application of chemicals more efficient.
This week in the Sunday edition, I spoke to Clare Malone, writer at The New Yorker, my former FiveThirtyEight colleague and the host of the brand-new podcast from The Ringer called Just Like Us: The Tabloids That Changed America. Clare’s brilliant, and Just Like Us, which premiered last week, is a perfectly-timed revisiting of early 2000s tabloid culture. It’s a great angle on an incredibly relevant question: What is celebrity culture doing to culture? Clare can be found on Twitter, at The New Yorker, and you should check out the new show, Just Like Us, which is available wherever you can find podcasts. I dropped the paywall on our interview, check it out!
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