Numlock News: May 24, 2022 • Meteorites, Conan, Sea Lions
By Walt Hickey
Conan O’Brien sold his podcasting shingle Team Coco to Sirius XM Holdings for $150 million, a huge payout as the big players in audio continue to scoop up podcast production houses. The flagship podcast from the operation, “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend,” ranked 26th across all podcasts in terms of weekly listeners in the first quarter of this year, making up most of the 16 million monthly downloads. O’Brien himself is now on a five-year talent agreement with Sirius, so let’s just say if Jay Leno wants to sell a podcast company, now would absolutely be the funniest time to do it.
China has announced restrictions on “unnecessary” overseas travel for citizens, meaning that the era of Chinese visitors juicing the global tourism economy has, at least temporarily, come to a close. In 2019, China’s residents were responsible for 154 million foreign trips, significantly more than the 100 million foreign trips Americans took, and spent an average of $1,852 per trip in 2018, considerably higher than the $1,363 spent by U.S. travelers. A significant cutback in Chinese overseas travel may have some serious implications for a number of tourist destinations that have specifically catered to Mandarin speakers and the $255 billion they otherwise would have spent abroad, at least as of 2019.
The average vehicle on a U.S. roadway was 12.2 years old in 2021, a new high owing in large part to supply crunches in new automobiles and high inflation in the automotive space, pushing drivers to hold on to their rides a little longer. While that was the cause of the acute increase, in general, cars have been getting older on U.S. roads because they’re now engineered to last longer. In 2021, the percentage of vehicles that were scrapped for good fell to 4.2 percent, the lowest in two decades. Only one sector of the vehicle market is actually seeing the average age of a car get younger: electrics, where the average vehicle is 3.8 years old, down from 3.9 years old in 2020.
The nation of Sri Lanka is in turmoil after the resignation of its prime minister and a serious debt problem. Sri Lanka’s fiscal fortunes were wracked by the pandemic, as the country relies on tourism — which generated $4 billion in 2018 — but tourism pretty much evaporated during the pandemic. The fiscal and governmental crisis and subsequent fuel and food shortages have only made matters worse: The expectation was that Sri Lanka would make about $2 billion this year from tourism, but arrivals bottomed out in April. While tourism generated $626 million from January to April, arrivals in April collapsed to 62,980 visitors compared to 106,500 in March, and the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka said that 80 percent of bookings have been cancelled.
Mercury is weird; the planet is too dense compared to other rocky worlds, and its core takes up the vast bulk of the volume of the planet. One theory as to why this is goes that Mercury was once a larger world with a nice juicy mantle just like all the other rocky worlds in the solar system, but a few billion years ago it got slammed by a large object that ripped off its outer layers and left the dense nugget of a world we have today. This theory is especially interesting, because it would open up the possibility that some of those chunks of Mercury eventually got onto the Earth. There are 70,000 meteorites that have been gathered around the world, most of which are from asteroids, but over 500 are from the moon and 300 are from Mars. So, why not Mercury? One class of meteorites — aubrites, which number about 80 — are pale and low in oxygen and have long been thought to at least resemble the kind of conditions that might have been seen on Mercury in the early solar system, and new missions to Mercury will endeavor to explore connections between the aubrites and Mercury’s compositions.
Bands of sea lions have been breaking into aquaculture facilities off the coast of Vancouver Island, devouring the farmed salmon to the point that conservationists are legitimately worried about the health of the sea lions. Approximately a dozen sea lions broke into two facilities operated by Cermaq, a Japanese-owned company that operates aquaculture facilities. The fear is that the sea lions may get tangled in the nets after feasting on the salmon contained within, a fate that has befallen dozens of sea lions since 2007. The first breach happened in March, when two dozen sea lions got into the Rant Point farm, and the second happened in May, when on the 12th about 10 sea lions were seen inside the farm’s netting just having the time of their life. They can eat 6 percent of their body weight per day. The sea lions obtained entrance into the nets by jumping over the stanchions, and operators said they did not have any difficulty escaping.
Florida is in the midst of a property insurance crisis related to roofs, which have been the target of scammers. Typically, contractors will go door to door pitching roof replacement to Floridians, saying they can get insurance to pay, and then the contractors will file fraudulent damage claims and sue the insurance company, usually winning and then driving insurance costs up for everyone. The insurance industry’s net losses exceeded $1 billion in Florida in 2021, and many are getting out of the state: Eight insurance companies operating in the state have gone out of business since 2021, and the rest are hiking rates 15 percent to 96 percent, with the Insurance Information Institute estimating that average premiums in Florida will rise 40 percent this year.
This week is the fourth anniversary of the launch of Numlock News. Now is one of the best weeks of the year to upgrade to the $5 per month, inflation-proof subscription to Numlock. If you like the newsletter, this is the best way to support it, and if you subscribe now you get 25 percent off your first year, so either $37.50 for an annual subscription or just $3.75 a month for the first 12:
You get access to some really excellent interviews every Sunday and you get to support the newsletter and ensure it’s sustainable and ad-free. I’m so grateful for all the subscribers; this newsletter wouldn’t be possible without you, and now’s a great time to upgrade.
The best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends.