Numlock News: July 28, 2023 • Third Pole, Heptagons, Kellanova
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
Food giant Kellogg has officially filed forms with the SEC to advance the company’s plan to break up into two firms, Kellanova and WK Kellogg Co. Yes, it turns out that a company that tried to combine highly processed, heavily advertised, nutritionally questionable snacks like Pringles, Cheez-Its and Pop-Tarts alongside highly processed, heavily advertised, nutritionally questionable breakfast cereals like Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops and Frosted Mini-Wheats simply was not meant to be. The $12.6 billion snacking division that will become Kellanova has been bogged down by sales slumps in the the $2.7 billion cereal division, and the hope is shedding that off as WK Kellogg Co. will appease Wall Street. It’s a difficult end for a company that never truly accomplished founder John Harvey Kellogg’s vision of comprehensively annihilating libido in America through corn flakes.
Pentagons and Heptagons
Both honeybees and wasps make nests using a lattice of six-sided cells; however at a certain point in a colony’s life the size of those cells will need to grow, as the colony transitions from producing female workers to producing larger queens and male drones. There’s a mathematically elegant way to most efficiently make that transition from small hexagons to large hexagons without disrupting the pattern, and it involves adding a five-sided cell next to a larger seven-sided cell. A new study published in PLOS Biology analyzed 115 images of colonies of five different honeybee species, four species of yellow jackets and one species of paper wasp, cataloging the wall size of 22,745 cells, and found that despite being separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, both bees and wasps used that optimal strategy of expanding cell size.
Since 1927, the National Braille Press has produced and distributed books and reading materials in braille, including a subscription service for children and a unique commitment that they sell their expensive-to-produce braille books at the same price as a print book. For instance, the braille edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is 1,100 pages weighing 12 pounds. The publishing program is subsidized largely by the NBP’s other business, which sells braille brochures, exams, textbooks, safety guides and more, for instance 35,000 menus for Starbucks stores in 2021. It also invests some of that into developing refreshable braille displays, which can dynamically produce braille based on electronic text, driving the price for a 20-cell electronic braille display from $6,000 to $10,000 all the way down to $2,495 in 2016.
A new report from the Government Accountability Office puts a spotlight on large partnerships and the difficulties that the IRS has in adequately auditing them. Most partnerships in America are extremely boring: Half of the 3.8 million partnerships that filed a return in 2019 had just two members in it, a standard vanilla business arrangement. However, between the years 2011 and 2012, the IRS began to observe the creation of large, circular networks of pass-through entities that caused the number of partners involved to explode. A “large partnership” for the purposes of the analysis is any one with over 100 partners and more than $100 million in assets, and as of 2019 there were 20,052 of them, mostly in finance, insurance and real estate. But it’s the nested, circular structures of some of these that has raised questions; in 2002, there were just 36 large partnerships with 20 or more tiers, 1.2 percent of all large partnerships. By 2019, there were over 6,000 such 20-plus tiered entities, accounting for 31.1 percent of all large partnerships. Those can be so complex that they are structurally extremely difficult for the IRS to properly audit, one reason that the audit rate of the 20,052 large partnerships in 2019 was a paltry 0.3 percent as of 2019.
Singapore has one landfill on an island 5 miles off the coast. The city-state burns its trash at incineration plants, then ships it off to the island of Semakau, which is projected to run out of space by 2035. The state is currently sending 2,000 tons of ash and waste that can’t be incinerated to the dump every day, and while the recycling rate is now at 57 percent the amount of waste produced annually was up in both 2021 and 2022. This doesn’t leave a whole lot of good options, but one on the table is mining that ash residue to serve as road construction material or concrete.
It’s a banner summer for companies that manufacture air conditioners, with Carrier Global Corp posting a record $6 billion revenue yesterday. It’s far from alone: When viewed in the aggregate, the estimated revenue of seven large HVAC manufacturers will hit $27.5 billion in Q2 and $28 billion in Q3, as extreme heat waves push people in climates that hadn’t needed HVAC equipment to buy up machinery to cool things down. That’s considerably higher than the $26.2 billion worth of equipment that the manufacturers moved in Q3 of 2022, the previous high.
Half the world’s population lives in Asia, and many countries on the mainland of the continent rely on a region called the Third Pole for their water. This region, which includes the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas, has more glaciers than anywhere else in the world other than the Arctic and Antarctica, and it’s the source of 10 major rivers including the Amu Darya, Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy, Mekong, Yangtze, Yellow, Tarim and Yarlung Tsangpo rivers. One geopolitical issue emerging is that the headwaters of those rivers originate in China but are relied on by 18 different downstream nations, and unilateral decisions by China to dam or irrigate with those headwaters can pose significant issues downstream. This is acutely felt because those Third Pole glaciers are projected to lose 30 percent to 40 percent of their volume by 2100.
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