Numlock News: July 26, 2019 • Medals, Toys, Pigs
By Walt Hickey
The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo have their medals, and all of the gold, silver and bronze medals are derived from recycled smartphones. A nationwide effort from 2017 to 2019 led to the collection of 6.21 million used mobile devices weighing 78,985 tonnes. After recycling, that produced 32 kilograms of gold, 3,500 kilograms of silver and 2,200 kilograms of bronze, all of which will go to the 5,000 Olympic and Paralympic medals to be given out next summer. Also, if anyone wants roughly 77,000 tonnes of shredded plastic, glass and silicon to make trophies for their sporting event, just hit up Japan, they definitely have some to spare.
At latest count, there are 75.5 million hogs in the U.S., the highest count since we began quantifying such things in 1964. At the same time, China’s in the middle of a major shock stemming from the outbreak of African Swine Fever. These numbers should be taken with an appropriate grain of salt, but China’s government said that the hog population is down 25.8 percent and its sow population — you know, the main way we have to make additional pigs — is down slightly more. One would think this is a situation easily solved by market forces, but the 62 percent tariff isn’t exactly helping matters.
Mattel is beginning to pull out of the tailspin the toy company fell into following the collapse of Toys ‘R’ Us, a retail closure that seriously jeopardized the toy industry. Sales were up 2 percent, beating expectations, and led by a 9 percent jump in Barbie sales and a 5 percent jump in Hot Wheels sales. Still, the past quarter saw sales of the American Girl doll line collapse, down 22 percent year over year. The company also said, yes, they truly are going ahead with that feature-length adaptation of the Magic 8-Ball product line.
Mexico produces 34 percent of the world supply of avocados, but due to trade tensions, a crummy California crop, and a surge in demand that’s been unmet, supply prices have hit records, doubling in cost since March. The U.S. imports 2 billion pounds of avocados annually, 87 percent of which originate in Mexico, and given that the plant isn’t necessarily ideally suited for the Canadian climate, they get 95 percent of their avocados from Mexico. Companies like Chipotle are now eyeing other producers like Peru, Chile and the Dominican Republic for their guac precursors.
Last week’s Sunday subscriber special was with Jodi Helmer, and we spoke all about how illegal marijuana grows can be a serious problem in forests and for the ecosystem around them. Jodi has a new book out, Protecting Pollinators: How to save the creatures that feed our world that is worth checking out!
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Moody’s, the bond rating agency, has bought a startup that quantifies climate-related risks, specifically the possible financial pitfalls of intensified hurricanes, heat stress, and floods in 196 countries and the risk exposure for 3,000 companies. How much a company stands to lose from climate shocks is of increasing concern to lots of investors in bonds, with the 6 percent who considered it important in 2018 jumping to 19 percent of surveyed investors in 2019. It’s also of increasing interest to municipalities ability to borrow, as any number of communities seriously threatened by rising sea levels have not seen that reflected in AAA bond ratings. See, it’s times like these when I regret founding the Numlock Corporate Headquarters on a small sand bar off of Hurricane Bay, Florida.
The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor is a multinational experiment that’s poised to open in 2025. If you have any leftover Large Hadron Collider jokes, this will be the next grandiose physics experiment you’ll be able to use those on. The goal — which entails the cooperation of 35 nations and will be based in southern France — is a commercial-scale fusion reactor. Right now, nuclear reactors harness energy through fission, but in December 2025 the first operations will launch. It will take a subsequent 10 years to ramp up to full operations. Earlier this week portions of an Indian-manufactured 3,850 ton cryostat were installed, making the project 65 percent complete. The final product will have the largest superconducting magnets on the planet containing plasma that will hit 150 million degrees Celsius.
Vascepa is a new drug that has been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but the most significant achievement is that an analysis found it’s somehow a bargain. You hear that? A pharmaceutical that isn’t overpriced compared to the tangible benefits it confers upon patients. That’s ridiculous. Drug price efficiency is measured with a stat called cost per quality-adjusted year of life, which basically is “how much someone would have to spend to get a good year’s benefit.” $100,000 for a year is considered a benchmark value, while some cancer drugs cost upwards of $200,000 per good year added. An organization estimated that Vescepa would be a good value at even $5,223 per year, but on average it costs just $1,625 annually, which is an absurdly good bargain.
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