Numlock News: March 11, 2022 • New Jersey, Canadarm 3, Fridge No More
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
MDA Ltd, the Canadian space company, won a C$269 million ($210 million USD) contract from the Canadian Space Agency for Phase B of the Canadarm 3 project. Canadian robotic arms were installed in the Space Shuttles and on the International Space Station, and Canada will continue designing colossal robotic appendages for the forthcoming NASA-led Gateway project, which will be a space station in lunar orbit with a — you guessed it — Canadian-designed robotic space arm. The goal with Canadarm 3 is to have a system with a great deal of autonomy, and design work is slated to be completed over the next 17 Canadian months (equivalent to 17 U.S. months).
Sweeten The Deal
A year and a half ago the Sugar Association, which represents the industrial interests of American sugar producers, filed a petition with the FDA asking them to force artificial sweeteners to be disclosed on products, presumably to tap into the ancient biological fear of eating long words you don’t understand. They do have a bit of a point in that the space is exploding: In that past year and a half, 2,318 new products with artificial sweeteners have rolled out in the U.S., and it’s growing at a clip of 300 percent in the past five years. New artificial sweeteners — including allulose, which is naturally occurring and has 90 percent fewer calories than sugar, and Rebaudioside M, which is derived from stevia, as well as brazzein, which is a calorie-free sugar found in oubli fruit — have also been developed or rolled out in the past year and a half.
Legal Leap Forward
This weekend many places in the United States will advance their clocks by an hour into daylight saving time, meaning we lose an hour. In the past four years, 18 states have passed legislation or resolutions that would make daylight saving time permanent in the event the Federal government gets out of the way; under current law, a state can choose to observe standard time year-round but can’t follow daylight saving time permanently. In 2022, 28 states are considering bills about time changes, a pile of 68 different measures that mostly would make daylight saving time permanent when the Feds allow it. I get it, but listen, the main moral of all time travel stories is that it’s foolhardy to manipulate the very fabric of time itself, so it’s best we leave it to the kinds of brilliant and incisive minds who can handle it, like a Congressman.
Methought I heard a voice cry Fridge No More!
In the past week, two of the 15-minute delivery services in New York City — already drastically money-losing businesses desperately competing for foothold in a city that isn’t entirely sure it needs them — have collapsed. Last week the service Buyk, which is backed by Russian money, furloughed 98 percent of employees as sanctions killed its funding, and yesterday Fridge No More abruptly announced it was shutting down, firing 600 employees in New York and Boston. It was revealed that the service had been financed by Doordash since January as the company mulled over an acquisition that it yanked out of on Wednesday. Now only four stupidly-named lightning delivery services remain: Gorillas, Gopuff, Getir and Jokr, all of which I assume are fronts for Batman villains.
A new Rutgers-Eagleton poll released yesterday found 73 percent of New Jersey residents said they would prefer to continue not having to pump their own gas, with only 22 percent preferring self-serve. Right now the Garden State, which as a point of pride has continued to require gas stations to have attendants that handle gasoline stations, is weighing ending the 73-year ban on self-serve gas. The bill’s supporters say that it could save drivers 15 cents a gallon and avoid a staffing shortage at gas stations, while opponents say that it would eliminate thousands of jobs and that there was no reason to believe stations would pass savings on to consumers rather than just pocketing it, and that if they lose this what do they even have left, they’d basically just be a more urbanized Delaware.
The U.S. Census announced that it undercounted the Black, Latino and Indigenous population of the United States by 18.8 million people, while overcounting the number of white and Asian American residents. The 2020 census was carried out under unprecedented pandemic conditions and strict deadlines that had been moved up by the Trump administration that had many worried the agency would not have enough time to properly track down underrepresented groups. The overall count of 323.2 million, a 5 percent increase, is still the case.
Europe is currently attempting to find new sources of energy as Russia, which sells the continent $1 billion worth of coal, gas and oil every day, becomes a global pariah over its invasion of Ukraine. The United States and Australia can replace 70 percent of the Russian coal imported into Europe right now, and running the continent’s coal plants full-time can reduce the need for about 15 percent of Russian gas imports. Theoretically, oil from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Iraq can make up for Russian imports if they can be coaxed into ramping up production, and this has Western powers weighing oil from now-sanctioned Venezuela and Iran. By next winter, by upping piped gas from Azerbaijan, Norway and Algeria and importing more liquefied natural gas through ports, Europe could cut Russian gas imports by a third to a half with the right kind of prep. Even basic rationing could make this far easier: Cutting European thermostats by 1C would cut demand by 7 percent this year.
Last week in the Sunday edition I spoke to Lawrence Lenhart, who wrote “How to clone a black-footed ferret” for High Country News. I loved the story because it’s a longtime scientific dream made into a reality. Using genetic technology to inject new vitality into ailing species has been promised since the beginning of genetic technology, and now it’s happening. The black-footed ferret is a unique example, and has been the subject of decades of work. Lenhart can be found on Twitter, and he’s got a book coming out about the ferret this year that you should keep an eye out for. Check the interview out!
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