Numlock News: February 27, 2020 • Florida, Driverless, Satellites
By Walt Hickey
Walmart is experimenting with operating medical clinics at its stores, expanding on its existing businesses of pharmacy, optical and over-the-counter drugs that made $36 billion in 2018. The trial clinics at several sites in Georgia fill a void for locals who — you know, living in America — lack affordable access to health care services. Doctors don’t mind it since Walmart handles the paperwork, and the company’s head of health and wellness said that the company saves about 40 percent on overhead compared to smaller shops. What’s most shocking is that Walmart is up front about the prices: $30 for a checkup, $25 for a teeth cleaning, conversations with a counselor at $1 per minute. Though the two Georgia clinics are a small trial, there are 4,756 stores that host 150 million people per week, so needless to say there’s upside.
Driverless Cars Requiring Driving
California hosts oodles of self-driving vehicles in various states of experimentation, and every year their DMV releases a wonderful statistic that all the self-driving researchers detest: how often a human had to take the wheel of their autonomous vehicles each year. Waymo, a Google spinoff, had just 109 “disengagements” last year for a rate of 0.076 per 1,000 miles driven. It’s the most-driven in the set, racking up 1.45 million of the 2.9 million miles that 60 technology companies drove on California’s roads. The highest number of disengagements went to Toyota Research Institute, 2,946 over 1,817 miles driven, followed by Mercedes-Benz R&D with 2,053 in 14,238 miles and Lyft, which had 1,666 in 42,930 miles.
Do You Believe In Miracles?
The best possible thing that can happen in a hockey game is a team losing their goalie, their backup goalie, and necessitating the activation of an emergency backup goalie. Every team in the NHL is required to grant entrance to the arena to a designated person with typically amateur goalie experience who — in the highly unlikely event that either team has no viable players to tend goal — will be called upon in times of great duress to suit up and play the game of hockey. This past weekend, such a hero had their moment in the sun: David Ayres, a 42-year-old who drives Zamboni machines in Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto, was designated the goalie of the Carolina Hurricanes in their 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leaves, making eight saves in the process and becoming the oldest person in the history of the NHL to win a regular season debut. Today, NHL general managers are gathering for their annual meetings, and the emergency backup system may be up for discussion. Unless their decision is “pre-emptively cutting a deal with a major studio for the inevitable film rights,” any change would be a colossal error.
A communications satellite, Intelsat 901, had been running low on fuel after 19 years in orbit. A new mission was launched, MEV-1, with the goal of trying to effectively gas-up the satellite, keep it in service, and demonstrate a viable proof of concept when it comes to re-using spacecraft that otherwise would be doomed to graveyard orbits due to their lack of navigability. The good news is that on February 25, the Mission Extension Vehicle successfully docked with the communications satellite, the first ever docking with a satellite that was not, in fact, designed for docking. In March, MEV-1 will move Intelsat 901 back into orbit for five years, then put it back in the graveyard orbit, and later possibly pull the same trick a second time.
An analysis of delivery apps turned up the fact that the apps are taking an enormous markup from orders by ordering the same thing from the same place through five different delivery services. Take, for instance, the Family Feast from Panda Express, which normally goes for $39. Now there are distinct advantages to ordering that delivery, like the ability to pretend you have a family that is in need of a feast rather than, you know, being alone and kind of drunk and in need of three large entrees and two large sides, because you deserve it. It will cost you: after accounting for in-app markups, delivery and service fees, and tax, that will cost you $57.91 on Grubhub, $62.27 on DoorDash, $61.38 on Postmates and $63.16 on Uber Eats, a range of markups that run from 37 percent for Grubhub to 49 percent for Uber Eats.
The state of Florida is growing rapidly and expanding, as 1,000 people per day move to the sunny state. In order to accommodate all those people, developers are bulldozing rural and natural habitats at an alarming rate. All told, Florida loses 12 acres of land to development every hour. That’s a problem because lots of things live in Florida that are not aging New Yorkers or senescent Midwesterners, like animals and plants that are being forced into increasingly small parts of the map. It’s possible to walk from natural habitats in one part of the state to habitats on the entire other end of it — the Florida Wildlife Corridor — but it is getting harder: the narrowest stretch of wild area in the route is .28 miles wide, with just 200 to 250 meters of uninterrupted forest.
Kelp rafts are large agglomerations of kelp that are often lousy with hitchhikers set adrift at sea. This is a key way that life finds its way to new habitats, but one new habitat has been disturbing researchers: Antarctica, which is physically isolated and owing to climate extremities has historically been protected from such invaders. Recently, living creatures have been discovered in over a dozen kelp rafts in Antarctic waters, made of kelp not native to Antarctica. Some invasive kelp carried worrying creatures that can choke the native kelp. There are an estimated 70 million kelp rafts in the Southern Ocean at any given time, so it’s entirely possible some were spread by storms, but life-leaden rafts may be more viable permanent ecological conquerors as temperatures warm.
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