Numlock News: March 28, 2022 • Vampires, McPlant, Red
By Walt Hickey
Stone Brewing is a craft brewery out of San Diego and they just won $56 million in damages against beer juggernaut MillerCoors after that company rebranded their Keystone Light beer in 2017 to “Stone.” The craft brewery wanted $216 million in past and future losses and for a “corrective advertising campaign.” Keystone Light has been losing sales from 2010 to 2015 amid competition from Anheuser-Busch and difficult domestic sales pressures, such as my college graduation. The trial featured a number of especially hilarious revelations, including when Keystone’s own attorney argued that it couldn’t be a trademark violation because Keystone Light customers are too broke to buy fancy beer like Stone anyway, or the acknowledgment in federal court of the pervasive college rumor that Keystone is just “the aftermath of Coors Light.”
The annual number of students majoring in petroleum has been crashing since its peak at 2,818 graduates in 2018. In 2020, the number of students who graduated from a U.S. university with a petroleum degree was 1,582, and enrollment is reportedly a struggle for many of the colleges that train oil drillers, with some sending professors overseas to recruit students. While the median pay for a petroleum engineer in 2020 was $137,000, students are understandably skittish to shell out a fortune to learn a potentially dying art. Trust me, as a lamplighting major with a minor in dictaphone operation I am so glad I’ve been taking online classes to learn wheelwrighting to stay competitive in today’s economy.
A new study compared vampire bats, which are the only mammals that can live on a diet of blood alone, to 26 other species of bats to figure out exactly why that became their whole deal. According to the new study published in Science Advances, the researchers identified 13 genes that are either missing or do not function anymore in the vampire bats, genes whose absence lets them adapt to a diet high in iron and protein but low in fat and carbs. Out of 1,400 species of bats, just three can survive on the sanguine diet alone.
Consumption of aluminum in the U.S. was up 11 percent last year, but prices are up now because Russia imported 6 percent of the aluminum that’s made in U.S. smelters. That’s driving producers of the metal to look to the scrap heap, where the economics are way better. Already 40 percent of U.S. aluminum supply is from scrap, and the country even exports 2 million metric tons of scrap aluminum. It’s one of the places recycling is very successful: 70 percent of new aluminum cans are made from old aluminum cans, and 45 percent of cans in the U.S. are recovered annually. Melting scrap into aluminum uses 90 percent less electricity than making aluminum in a smelter from bauxite ore. Several aluminum producers are building or expanding their domestic scrap capacity.
A new analysis of 8,400 collections of 19.3 million NFTs found that one in three NFT collections have expired, with effectively no trading activity, and another third of those are trading for less than the cost of producing one new token. Overall, the 30-day sales volume of NFTs are down 40 percent compared to the previous month, and volume on the largest NFT marketplace is down 67 percent over the past 30 days. While critics might suggest this is the obvious endpoint of a frenzy-driven market and, if the market could be described as a rapidly inflating sphere held together by a tense, thin surface, perhaps this is the pop, optimists argue that we’re merely in the dump portion of the pump/dump cycle.
The McPlant, a potential McDonald’s menu item that features Beyond Meat, is currently being tested in about 600 stores in California and Texas. According to an analyst, it’s not going great: The initial eight-store test saw stores selling 70 McPlants per day, but according to the latest data, halfway into the six- to eight-week test, the McDonald’s are only selling around 20 sandwiches per day. That’s below the target of 40 to 60 McPlants, which actually causes a production problem on its own: The original plan was to cook the McPlants in advance and hold them for 15 minutes, but because they’re not actually selling enough to pull that 15-minute hold off, they’ve got to cook them to order which takes four and a half minute and throws off a whole drive-thru line.
Cochineal bugs are about 0.2 inches long and feed on cactuses, and they’re harvested en masse and ground into natural dyes like carmine and carminic acid. It’s labor-intensive, but people want their food and their cosmetics to be red, so they’re harvested commercially and sold to processors, with about 70,000 bugs needed to make a fifth of a pound of carminic acid. As demand increased, the price per ton was up 40 percent in Peru from 2013 to 2019. Lately, researchers have tried to use metabolic engineering to get bacteria to manufacture carminic acid; a 2021 pilot study proved it out using genetically modified E. coli, and argue that the engineered bacteria growing for five days in a 100,000-liter fermenter could hypothetically produce the same amount of carminic acid as 2.5 acres of bugs could in a year.
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