Numlock News: March 23, 2022 • Monkeys, Xiaomi, Chelsea
By Walt Hickey
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From 2015 to 2016, the price that ranchers got for beef cattle fell 32 percent, and it hasn’t recovered since. The beef processors — who buy cattle from ranchers and sell beef to distributors — have been accumulating more and more of every dollar spent on beef, with just four companies controlling 85 percent of the market. They’re doing just fine: Tyson beef operating income doubled in 2021, JBS’s business was up 28 percent in the first nine months of last year, and Cargill’s sales were up 17 percent. But for the ranchers, business is bad. It cost $1,230.54 to buy a 750-pound calf in August of 2021, then $415.86 to feed it and $158.17 in non-feed costs to turn it into a 1,300-pound steer in January of 2022. Unfortunately, that steer would sell for an average $1,796.21, meaning that on balance the rancher is losing $8.60 per cow.
Chelsea F.C., valued at $3.35 billion, is up for sale, as owner Roman Abramovich’s ties to the Russian regime have forced him to sell the club. Lots of people are interested: So far the English Premier League team has at least 15 bids, and this might be the most competitive franchise sale in the history of sports. The new owner will also likely have to set aside $2 billion for a new stadium, as well, so those pockets are going to need to be pretty deep. The circumstances of the sale are interesting — the net proceeds will be donated — and as a result it’s entirely possible that the bidder with simply the largest number on the check isn’t awarded the team.
On an islet called Cayo Santiago in Puerto Rico, there’s a colony of 1,500 rhesus monkeys that have been subjects for hundreds of scientific studies, regularly getting blood drawn as researchers explore social structures of the monkeys. In September 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, damaging the habitat on Cayo Santiago. However, since these monkeys were already being closely studied, it turned out to be a really perfect natural experiment into how a traumatic event impacts the health. One new study looked at their immune systems, comparing blood drawn from 435 macaques before the hurricane with blood from 108 macaques after. They found that the monkeys who endured the hurricane had a pattern of gene expression in their immune system that is similar to monkeys two years older biologically, which is the monkey equivalent of 8 years of human life.
Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone manufacturer that has a 14 percent share of the global market, said that it expects that the chip supply crunch will improve considerably in the second quarter of the year, and by the second half of 2022 the supply problems will mostly be solved, and even might turn into demand problems. That’s the first time a device manufacturer has presented the possibility of such an imminently rosy future. Last year the company had to cut its shipment target by 20 million units, and even still shipped 191 million handsets, up 29.3 percent over 2020. This year, they’re targeting over 200 million units.
The London Metal Exchange’s topsy-turvy nickel contract has begun to settle down after a price surge that forced a six-day trading suspension. The exchange pulled the plug on March 8 after a Chinese company desperately bought large amounts of nickel to reduce a doomed short bet, which for a few hours meant nickel was going for north of $100,000 a tonne. When trading resumed on March 16, the adjusted starting price was $48,000, but the daily down limit that would trigger a market circuit breaker was capped at 15 percent. Those limits were hit immediately every single day, until Tuesday, when the metal fell 13.9 percent at market open, barely missing the 15 percent limit and giving metals traders a few hours to get a trade in edgewise. Nickel finished the day at $28,800 per ton, down 8 percent on the day.
While a piece of pop culture can drive interest in a language, like how Duolingo saw a spike in interest in Korean following the release of Squid Game, one language really stands out in terms of sustained growth in interest thanks to its cultural exports. According to Rosetta Stone, the monthly average number of people learning Japanese was up 80 percent in 2020 compared to the 2015 to 2019 monthly average, making it now the fifth-most popular language on the service. It’s also grown to be the fifth-most studied language in 2021 on Duolingo, supplanting Italian. This has largely been driven by rising interest in anime and manga exports.
A new study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology says that by 2050 some 1.4 million street trees in cities will die because of rising infestations of non-native insects. Less than a quarter of the country will suffer 95 percent of the losses, particularly urban trees in Milwaukee, Chicago and New York, predominantly because lots of those cities’ trees are ash trees which are being killed by the emerald ash borer. Ash trees are expected to make up 90 percent of the losses, but maple and oak trees are also at risk from beetles and other pests.
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