Numlock News: February 9, 2021 • Aquaculture, Antivenom, Juiced Ball
By Walt Hickey
Yesterday saw the start of a union vote by mail for workers in Amazon’s warehouse in Alabama, what could be the first unionized facility among the approximately 110 fulfillment centers around the United States. About 6,000 people work there, and the vote is to join the RWDSU, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, among full-time wage and salary workers, the median weekly earnings of a union member was $1,144 in 2020, while for non-union workers it was $958. The warehouse in Bessemer opened in March 2020, and Amazon says it’s created over 5,000 jobs earning $15.30 starting pay per hour. The mail-in vote concludes on March 29.
In case you’ve avoided following the financial news over the past couple weeks, lots of people have been throwing money at several often-shorted stocks like AMC and GameStop in order to extract money from the larger players behind the shorts, to varying degrees of success. That’s neat and all, but what’s interesting is how the companies themselves have actually played their hands. For instance, AMC Cinemas, seeing their stock pumped up by a bunch of teenagers, wisely did an at-the-market offering of shares, issuing 50 million new shares of stock on the open market, and allowing them to raise $300 million in January from that share sale on their (arguably inflated) share price. Furthermore, $600 million in debt was wiped out when one of the groups that held it converted the debt into shares and sold them, making $100 million for themselves and clearing AMC’s obligations. As a result of these and other moves, AMC managed to gain about $1 billion in cash, which means they get to continue to be a movie theater and not some pandemic-era fire-sale repo. On the other hand, GameStop did none of that financial engineering, and so they appear to still remain a mall-based physical media retailer in a digital economy.
The Australian Reptile Park in Somersby plays a critical role in the development of antivenom for the myriad venomous species that live there. While lots of their work entails milking the many reptiles in their care for venom to send off to a pharmaceutical company to develop treatments, they also collect donations of the fatally venomous funnel web spider. Unfortunately, donations are low this year — the park attributes that to a number of factors, from beach lockdowns to bushfires — so they’re asking the brave who find the spiders to safely collect them and send them to the park. Prior to the development of the antivenom, there were 13 deaths from funnel web spiders recorded in Australia; since the antivenom was developed in 1981, there have been zero deaths. When New York asked its people to stop using plastic grocery bags, people got really ticked off, and yet Australia is straight-up asking its citizenry to capture venomous arachnids for the common good and people are down!
A Yomiuri newspaper poll released Monday shows that a majority of Japanese citizens have serious qualms about the Olympics going on as planned, with 28 percent wanting the Olympics to be cancelled, and a combined 61 percent wanting the games to be either cancelled or postponed again. Only 36 percent support holding the Olympics this summer, the majority of whom want no spectators. Only 8 percent of respondents want the games to go on with spectators. About 70 percent believe that vaccination will help resolve the situation, making this the single-most consequential injection in Olympic history since the East German doping regime.
An analysis of 130 facial-recognition datasets compiled over 43 years found that at some point, researchers abandoned the practice of asking for participant consent in training models. In the early era of facial recognition data — into the mid-1990s — 100 percent of the input material came from photo shoots with explicit participant consent. During the next era of models, produced from the late ‘90s to late 2000s, just 86.1 percent of the data came from photo shoots; by the third era, which ran from the late 2000s to 2014, only 31.3 percent came from photoshoots, 37.5 percent from simple web searches, 15.6 percent from mugshots and 6.3 percent from surveillance cameras. Today, consent is vestigial for facial recognition algorithms: in the models since 2014, 78.3 percent of data is from searches, 4.4 percent mugshots, 4.3 percent surveillance and a paltry 8.7 percent from photo shoots.
Major League Baseball has quietly made its balls less springy, a move that follows years of the “juiced ball,” a period when because of the materials or processes used baseballs seemed to have a little more oomph in them coming off the bat. The actual industry term for oomph is “coefficient of restitution,” which the MLB requires to be between 0.530 and 0.570, but it has inched up in that range over the past several years. Rawlings will loosen the tension on the first of three windings of wool in the ball, which is believed to knock the COR down 0.01 to 0.02 and shave 2.8 grams of weight off the ball. The change is believed to cause balls to fly 1 to 2 feet shorter on hits over 375 feet, which could dampen the record 6,776 home runs hit in the 2019 regular season, a year when 6.6 percent of plate appearances were home runs.
A new fish farm in Singapore will produce up to 3,000 tonnes of grouper, trout and shrimp annually. This fish farm is notable primarily because of its location, which is an eight-story indoor aquaculture facility being constructed in the city-state. Singapore imports 90 percent of its food, and would prefer to scale that back a bit, with the national goal of producing 30 percent of its nutritional needs locally by 2030. If all goes according to plan, the new facility’s efficiency will be six times higher than that of other fish farms in Singapore.
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