Numlock News: July 20, 2023 • SlamBall, Black Holes, Iceland
By Walt Hickey
Scientists are fascinated by a unique type of explosion detected in space that’s called a luminous fast blue optical transient (LFBOT), which are distinct from things like weeks-to-months-long supernovae because they brighten very quickly over the course of three to four days to 70,000 degrees Fahrenheit and then fade fast. The leading idea is that they’re giant stars that failed going supernova, but they could be colliding neutron stars or more black hole shenanigans, it’s still a mystery. The first — AT2018cow, but nicknamed as “Cow” — was spotted in 2018, and only a few have been spotted since, including ZTF18abvkwla (“Koala”), AT2022tsd (“Tasmanian Devil”), and just this past April, AT2023fhn. That is known as “Finch” in the paper that described it but as “Fawn” by the astronomer who catalogs them, a Finch vs. Fawn schism that is bound to be one of the truly great ones in the history of astronomy, up there with heliocentrism vs. geocentrism, planet Pluto vs. not planet Pluto, or don’t look directly at an eclipse Walter vs. come on man, just for like a second, come on be cool.
The use of plastics in paints is being reevaluated in much the same way the use of lead in paints was, as evidence builds that paint is a key driver of microplastics. In 2019, 44.4 million tons of paint were produced globally, and 95 percent of that was plastic-based paint. A 2022 report from the consulting firm Environmental Action argued that 58 percent of microplastics found in oceans and waterways was from paint, which makes sense given that paint is on lots of surfaces that come into contact or eventually might flow into waterways. Alternatives to plastic-based paint include paints made from linseed oil, walnut oil or limewash, but the issue is always going to be price. A gallon of plastic-based paint might go for $11, while the same amount of a specialized paint made from graphene and lime retails for $34 to $114.
SlamBall, an extreme sport that combines the structure of basketball but replaces the wood floor with a bunch of trampolines, is back this Friday after a 20-year absence with an eight-team league. Right now athletes are in training camp in Vegas for the second iteration of the sport that previously folded in 2008 and involves powerful trampolines that can send a dedicated player up to 30 perilous feet in the air. Of the crop of new players, 34 played college basketball and 12 played college football, with the players averaging at 26 years old. Four of the players are in fact descendants of players who graced the trampolines in the first iteration of SlamBall, which I presume means the sport is survivable under certain conditions.
During the 2021-22 school year, as a form of pandemic relief the U.S. federal government provided free school meals to any and all students regardless of their family’s income situation, a popular program that in the wake of its conclusion has prompted multiple states to roll out universal lunch for kids. Legislation passed in six states — Minnesota, California, Maine, Colorado, New Mexico and Vermont — implementing free school meals, and advocates anticipate it’ll improve student health, behavior and performance. Younger kids who experience food insecurity are more likely to have to repeat a grade, and one reason Minnesota was spurred to pass the law was that 18 percent of children who would qualify for free or reduced price lunch weren’t getting it because of a suite of forms their parents didn’t fill out.
The Overwatch League is one of the earliest and highest-investment attempts to make a city-based franchise system work in an esports league. This fifth season, though, may be its last, as following the acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft the latest news does not bode well for the future of the league, which at one point commanded a franchise buy-in fee of $20 million to $35 million. Besides a brutal layoff in the esports department, Activision Blizzard said in its second quarter earnings that a vote will now go to the teams over a new operating agreement, and if the teams do not vote to renew it they’ll each be paid a termination fee of $6 million and be allowed to walk away, which is a strong indication that the league in its current format with multiple, fixed teams based in municipalities will likely come to an end.
Trebel is a music app with an ad-supported tier that, unlike Spotify and YouTube, doesn’t charge users to download music in Latin America, which has made it a solid hit. Its 13 million monthly active users as of April is lower than the 102 million Spotify users in Latin America and 75 million YouTube users in Mexico and Colombia, but it’s satisfying a massive niche that the bigger players are failing to address. Latin American music listeners will pay significantly less for content compared to their American counterparts: Per capita, Americans spent $21 each on music streaming in 2022, while Mexicans spent $1.70 and Brazilians spent $1.23. That makes the market ripe for Trebel, as Spotify charges the equivalent of $6.80 for a subscription in Mexico and YouTube charges $7 monthly to download music.
Iceland has a $2 billion seafood sector, and thanks to a project called 100% Fish, the country has become phenomenally successful at utilizing all the waste from fish in innovative ways that minimize environmental inefficiencies. In 2003, only 40 percent of cod had uses, eating foremost among them, but today Icelanders have a way to use 95 percent of a cod. By weight a cod is 8 percent skin, and that’s led to uses in both medical grafting and production of collagen supplements. Bones are 35 percent of cod weight, which can be dried and exported to Nigeria for a popular soup, or used to produce calcium supplements. The main issue has been what to do with the 10 percent of a fish that’s blood, which has seen experimentation in fish feed, fertilizer, and under some conditions as an additive to sausage from terrestrial beasts.
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