Numlock News: February 7, 2023 • Wolves, Natural Red, Menhaden
By Walt Hickey
Who Keeps Company with Wolves Will Learn to Howl
A new study published in Communications Biology played back audio of wolves howling to gauge the reaction of various breeds of domesticated dogs to figure out what affected the inclination to howl. The study looked at 68 dogs from 28 breeds, 17 of which were dogs from breeds that are most similar genetically to wolves — so-called “ancient breeds” — including Shiba inu, Siberian husky, Alaskan malamute, Akita inu, Shih tzu and Pekingese. Overall, 57.3 percent of the tested dogs gave in and howled, and the ancient breed dogs were more prone to replying with a howl of their own compared to the dogs more distantly related to wolves, the so-called “modern breeds.”
Communications Biology, Eötvös Loránd University
Last year 3.4 million adults in the U.S. were at one point or another forced to evacuate their homes due to a national disaster, according to the Census Bureau, approximately 1.4 percent of the American adult population. That’s a lot higher than the estimate for the typical number of people displaced in a given year, which was up to 800,000 on average for the years between 2008 and 2021. About 40 percent of those displacements lasted less than a week, but 12 percent were people displaced for over six months and 16 percent were adults who never returned home.
Fox is airing the Super Bowl this Sunday, and made a killing on the ads despite the peculiarities of the current media environment, in fact selling 95 percent of the ads by September of last year. Selling off that last 5 percent was a bit rough: Most ads sold for between $6 million and $7 million for a 30-second spot, but by the end of the year the stomach to spend seven large on 30 seconds began to slip. Nevertheless on Monday the network declared a sellout.
The number of writers on songs has risen steadily since the early 1990s, but then very quickly in the past five years. Among number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100, the number of songwriters has risen from 1.8 songwriters in the 1970s to 5.3 songwriters in the 2010s. That spike holds even after you throw out the songwriting credits attributable to sampling or interpolating older songs into new ones. This has happened all while the average number of producers on a hit song has remained relatively flat. This could have a couple sources, including preemptively granted songwriting credits to avoid lawsuits, but it’s probably because more producers are also scoring writing credits. While 48 percent of hits from 1960 to 1980 had at least one person who was both a songwriter and producer, that figure was over 99 percent in the 2010s.
A menhaden is a tiny fish at the bottom of the food chain, serving an essential purpose feeding the entire rest of the marine ecosystem. They’re also hauled in by the ton by fishing companies to be reduced into proteins for use in supplements and more. The issue now is that according to fishery mangers, the harvest is having a devastating effect on striped bass in the Atlantic. The Chesapeake Bay is the nursery for 70 percent to 90 percent of the Atlantic stock of stripped bass, who spend much of their youth feasting on, you guessed it, menhaden. Every year, 51,000 tons of menhaden are harvested from the bay, and anglers who like to catch striped bass and environmentalists want that to decrease. One company in particular, Omega Protein, harvests 90 percent of the menhaden hauled out of American waters, and the company has been feuding with anglers and fishery managers over the impact of their fish.
Michroma, a food science company, raised $6.4 million to commercialize a natural red food coloring that they argue would — through a genetically modified fungi in a bioreactor — replace the current supply chain of red food coloring, which is derived from petrochemicals. It’s one of many investments currently happening to develop stable, natural, and most importantly for the food companies, vibrant food color options that can satisfy a demand to phase out artificial colors. The natural food color business is expected to double in value from $2 billion this year to $4.1 billion by the end of 2033.
A neighborhood outside of Scottsdale, Arizona, with some 2,000 homes recently learned that they don’t actually have a stable water supply. The 1980s Groundwater Management Act required that in order for a development six lots or larger to proceed in Arizona, it had to secure a 100-year supply of water. The Rio Verde Foothills developers kept splitting parcels into four to five lots, putting them under the six-lot minimum that applied to the law and avoiding that requirement. Previously, 25 percent to 35 percent of the residents — about 500 to 700 homes in the area without a private well — would pay private water trucks to deliver water supplied by Scottsdale, but as the Colorado River level dropped the city cut them off, and now they’ll have to either pay significantly more to truck in water from elsewhere, or drill a well.
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Those two stories about Rio Verde and the Menhaden both in my view highlight what a shortsighted, borderline stupid species we are. We continue to do things with no thoughts of the consequences of our actions, over and over--especially when it comes to this planet's living and natural resources--and then we profess shock/dismay when those resources no longer exist, or become so rare that they are impossible to find.
Waaaait a minute... I thought red food colouring is made from crushed beetle shells, carminic acid!!