Numlock News: July 1, 2022 • Leopards, Shochu, Pandas
By Walt Hickey
We’re off Monday in observation of Independence Day. Have an excellent weekend, and see you Tuesday.
Just two megacities — Mumbai and Los Angeles — have big cats that breed, hunt and maintain territory within their borders. In Mumbai they’ve got a population of leopards, and in Los Angeles they’ve got large mountain lions. About 100 of the beasts in Los Angeles County are collared by researchers, while Mumbai is home to about 50 leopards, even if the space is probably more suited to accommodate about 20 leopards. This, of course, will grow to include New York once my plan to release 17 tigers in Queens to reduce the rat problem in summer and free up parking around Citi Field finally comes to fruition.
A new study of 2,322 people over the course of decades of their lives found that career success — which had colloquially been understood to actually increase the risk of medical or psychological harm — did not appear to result in adverse health outcomes in the long term. One component of the study tracked 496 STEM doctoral students identified in 1992 and looked at their life outcomes, finding no significant difference between the people who enjoyed successful careers and those who did not when it came to medical status and family relationships. Essentially, this means that there are absolutely no negative consequences to wanting to be the very best, like no one ever was, and that your courage will indeed pull you through.
The United States Navy maintains the 225-year-old 304-foot-long U.S.S. Constitution, a wooden ship first launched in 1797 that saw service in the Quasi-War, the First Barbary War, the War of 1812 and conflicts through its last mission in 1853. In 1906, the Navy restored it, and right before the 1976 Bicentennial the Navy spent a fortune buying up wood from white oaks to repair it. That’s when the government realized, wait, we actually own a huge forest with lots of white oaks bought as a remote weapon storage site during the New Deal era, and that’s when the forest at Naval Support Activity Crane, south of Bloomington, Indiana, became the timber supplier to the Constitution. About 25 percent of the annual growth is sustainably harvested per year, wood that goes to the ship with a surplus sold by the Navy to support the program.
The southwestern region of Kyushu in Japan is traditionally known for the production of shochu, the clear liquor made out of grain, potatoes and sugar cane. Indeed, the export of shochu has expanded 19 percent since 2016, but meanwhile the domestic demand — amid an aging population and shortened restaurant hours related to the pandemic — has begun to slump. This has led many distillers to switch over to the production of Japanese whisky, which has truly been on a tear both at home and abroad. Japan exported 46.1 billion yen ($339 million) worth of whisky in 2021, up 70 percent compared to 2020 and up 430 percent compared to 2016.
A new study published in Scientific Reports describes a fossilized Ailuractos, an ancestor of the modern panda, that has the opposable “false thumb” that pandas need to grasp and consume bamboo. Previously, the thumb-esque sixth digit appendage was only tracked up to 100,000 to 150,000 years ago, which forced researchers to conclude that bamboo was a relatively recent addition to the panda diet. The new fossils, though, push that back considerably: The site is dated to 6 million to 7 million years ago.
Kazakhstan is home to the saiga, a type of antelope that in 2015 endured a devastating bacterial plague that wiped out half of the entire population, bringing the numbers down to less than 200,000. Going into this year’s calving season, though, the number was all the way up to 1.3 million saigas, thanks to a crackdown on the poaching where the animal’s horns are harvested for use in traditional medicine. The ban on hunting saiga rolled out in the 1990s but is set to end in 2023, and according to the government they plan to authorize about 10 percent of the saiga population for culling.
Hydrogen has a ton of promise as a carbon-free industrial fuel source, but moving it around is an issue. The atoms are so small that existing natural gas infrastructure and storage can actually get damaged or leak if hydrogen is run through it, but one startup — H2SITE, which scored €12.5 million in funding from a number of European utilities and a Bill Gates venture — is proving out two ways of moving hydrogen around. One runs it through natural gas pipelines alongside methane, about a 30 percent mixture, with their key innovation being tech with ability to filter out 99.9 percent of the hydrogen mixed in with natural gas. The other strategy is trapping it in ammonia or methanol, and they can get the cost of filtering down to $0.80 per kilogram of hydrogen.
This week in an unlocked Sunday edition, I spoke to culture writer Alissa Wilkinson, who wrote the new book Salty: Lessons on Eating, Drinking, and Living from Revolutionary Women, out this week. I really love her culture journalism and have been looking forward to this book since it was announced. We spoke about why food is such a great lens to view people we can’t meet, how Hannah Arendt’s radical views on friendship got her through unpleasant times, and some of the stories of particularly resilient people in the book that might give people encouragement in times of uncertainty. Salty can be found wherever books are sold. Read our interview here.
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