Numlock News: March 2, 2023 • Airpods, Belarus, Boreholes
By Walt Hickey
Losing their AirPods
Apple suppliers with large manufacturing operations in China are eyeing neighboring countries for future growth as tensions between the U.S. and China make suppliers uneasy. GoerTek, which makes AirPods for Apple, is investing $280 million in a new plant in Vietnam on top of the $1.06 billion it’s invested in Bac Ninh, and is also weighing an expansion in India. China is the site of the overwhelming majority of Apple computer production, but nine out of 10 suppliers are eyeing large moves out to hedge their bets against the bottom falling out of U.S.-China relations.
In 2021, the city of Palm Springs installed a $1 million 26-foot statue of actress Marilyn Monroe near the Palm Springs Art Museum called Forever Marilyn, a 2011 work by Seward Johnson. Critics think that the sculpture — which is of the scene from The Seven Year Itch where Monroe’s skirt is blown up — is sexist, and at the absolute least hella tacky. Some residents sued, and last week the 4th District Court of Appeals of California overturned the dismissal of the suit, giving the go-ahead to fight this out in court. The residents allege that the city inappropriately used a law designed for street fairs and block parties to permanently shut down a part of the street for the statue.
A study looked at the lichens in two different state parks in Florida, one on a barrier island that regularly is hit with storm flooding and another that is 500 meters inland. The theory was that the presence of certain lichen species can give an indication of their resilience to salt, and as a result could tip off how vulnerable a given site is to climate change. Of the 48 lichen species found at the two sites, 11 were reliable indicators of the presence of salt water, seven lichens only grew in areas where there was low saltwater impact, and four lichens were salt tolerant.
The ATF established the American Viticultural Area (AVA) System in 1979, a way to carve out grape-growing regions that have unique attributes, a system that is borrowed from Europe with some domestic twists. Napa Valley got their AVA in 1981, and since then hundreds of other places that claim to produce wine have also gotten them, including parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and of course New Jersey. In fact, there are 267 AVAs in the United States, which I do have to say sounds somewhat ambitious. If anything, that does explain why a trip to literally any city in America will involve a chance to survey what is invariably described as “a vibrant local wine scene.” For perspective, European wine titans Italy and France have 350 AVAs and 360 AVAs, respectively, with rather rigorous local regulations governing the matter.
Half of adults think that based on the current economic picture the recent wave of mass layoffs were avoidable, with just 35 percent thinking that they were somewhat or totally unavoidable. According to the polls, laying off employees is a huge red flag for prospective talent, with 58 percent of respondents saying that it was somewhat or very unlikely that they would consider a new position at a company that recently laid off a portion of employees. Instead, they'd prefer to see belt tightening in other places, with 69 percent of employees saying they'd somewhat or very likely consider a position at a company where management announced they took a pay cut rather than laying off employees.
Belarus, the Russian ally that in any writeup is invariably described as "Europe's last dictatorship" at some point because it's snappy and punchy and easily reminds Americans what Belarus is, has been hemorrhaging talented and educated workers amid its political problems and the war in Ukraine. Since 2020, based on official stats about 120,000 Belarusians have left the country, with other estimates putting the true number closer to 200,000 to 300,000, a fairly sizable chunk of the 9.3 million population. The brain drain is particularly acute in IT, where of the 60,000 to 100,000 workers in the field in 2020, something like 20,000 workers have left the country by last June. The expats have set up shop in countries like Lithuania and Georgia.
The question of how to deal with nuclear waste is a thorny one, and one option that governments and private companies are considering to deal with the 90,000-ton backlog of spent nuclear fuel in the U.S. is to just dump it down any of the thousands of boreholes in the U.S. that already exist because people wanted to suck some oil out of the ground. There are 160,000 boreholes with horizontal sections in the U.S., which are the kind being considered for this kind of long-term storage. One issue is that boreholes are typically 8.5-inch oil wells and a hole that could fit a standard nuclear waste canister would need to be more than 19 inches wide, but the point is that it's easier to drill a wider hole than make a whole new one. The company Deep Isolation estimated it would take about 670 such boreholes to dispose of the spent fuel backlog, while other estimates put it closer to 1,000.
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