Numlock News: July 15, 2020 • Gliders, Sliders, Firefighters
By Walt Hickey
On May 1 Colorado saw the rollout of legalized sports betting, which is some incredibly poor timing. Still, people got in on some action, wagering $25.6 million according to the state division of gaming. Given the dearth of sports in general, one must wonder what precisely people actually threw money on, and charmingly the answer was ping pong. Table tennis, a delightfully socially distanced sport, was the most popular, with $6.6 million in wagers, followed by MMA, baseball, soccer and golf.
White Castle will begin tests on a robot arm that can cook french fries and other food. Food prep can be notoriously difficult to automate, but new demand for a kitchen with as little human contact as possible is speeding up experimentation behind the grill. The robot, “Flippy” as it’s deemed by Miso Robotics in California, costs $30,000 and carries a $1,500 monthly service fee, and as a former line cook let me say how dare you. Can Flippy scrape the crap off the floor of the walk-in? No? Can Flippy cover front of house when Sarah calls out with a cold but you know for a fact she’s still hungover? How about bum you a smoke out back by the dumpster? Can Flippy empty a grease trap? Flippy’s not pulling its weight around here — a weight I guesstimate is probably like 700 pounds — and I won’t stand for it.
About 1.2 million South Koreans aged 15 to 29 are not in education, employment or training, which reflects a group of economically disengaged youth that oftentimes do so by choice. A survey found 38 percent of that group were unemployed by choice and happier, and in March 400,000 young people did not work and were not seeking it. Before the pandemic, the percentage of 25 to 29-year-olds in South Korea who were unemployed was higher than all other wealthy developed countries. There’s one significant reason for particularly women to check out of the economy: the country’s gender pay gap is worst in the OECD nations, with men earning 32.5 percent more than women.
NOAA has been rolling out a fleet of autonomous self-propelling underwater vehicles across the Atlantic in order to get critical information about the conditions that fuel hurricanes. They’ve built the fleet from a modest pair of two underwater gliders in 2014 to a veritable armada of 30 gliders. Ready to be dumped in the waters outside of coastal areas, these vehicles report back on the ocean temperatures that could invigorate cyclones. Without the robots, NOAA can have around 5,000 observations around a storm; with them, they can get as many as 100,000 observations on which to base a weather model.
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A Morning Consult poll conducted July 7 to 9 found that 18 percent of U.S. adults reported seeing the digital film of Hamilton that dropped on Disney+ on July 3. The success of the film has turned more Americans on to professional recordings of Broadway shows, with 77 percent of U.S. adults reporting they’d be more interested in watching those captures. This is just the news a medium rocked by twin disasters — first, the mandatory shutdowns that all but ended the possibility of public performances and forced a total financial collapse of all existing theatrical productions, and then second and more importantly, the residual impact of the 2019 film Cats potentially tuning a generation away from theater — needed to hear.
The U.S. Forest Service used to spend money on lots of things in order to improve the health and safety of forests, but now it spends most of its money on just one thing, putting fires out. The fire suppression component of their budget grew from 15 percent to 55 percent in recent years, and that had been expected to rise to 66 percent of the budget by 2021. This wasn’t because the forestry service had been rewarded with more budget to fight fires, more that they’re shifting money away from preventative management in order to take care of immediate fire dangers. In 2018, though, Congress passed the fire funding fix, which will provide $2.25 billion per year for wildfire prevention to Agriculture and Interior, and will increase that by $100 million each year through 2027. The goal is to restore the forests to balance so they’re not tinderboxes primed to burn.
A new study published in Nature argues that a strategy called enhanced rock weathering can capture 500 million to 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide at a cost of $80 to $180 per metric ton. The gist is that basalt would be ground into granules and spread across fields so the minerals within — silicon, calcium, magnesium, iron, aluminum — are absorbed and leached into water bodies, which lowers acidity and enables the water to absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This would have the neat secondary effect of replenishing soil and reducing soil acidity, while safely settling carbon now in the air into the bodies of deceased plankton.
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