Numlock News: November 17, 2023 • Undersea Treasure, Vegas Weddings, Bluefin Tuna
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend! Finally back home, thanks for all the support along the book tour.
Hydrogen fuel cell trucks are catching on, particularly among trucking fleets in California where the state has set ambitious targets for fuel efficiency of truck fleets and offered incentives to get local operators to shift. Battery electric trucks have the head start, but have some issues — the best can gets 300 miles of travel on a charge that takes several hours to accrue — while hydrogen trucks have ranges of up to 500 miles, and refueling takes a half-hour. They start at around $450,000, which is steep, and roughly three times the price of an equivalent diesel. Subsidies from the state and the ports, which are also trying to lower their emissions, are critical to making those investments feasible.
Vegas was deemed the wedding capital of the world in 1953, and business has stayed brisk in the ensuing 70 years. Originally advantageous for the state’s laissez-faire attitude toward things like blood tests and waiting periods and a municipal penchant for speed, the industry remains robust, and the wedding industry alone was responsible for $2.5 billion of the $80 billion Vegas hit in tourist spending in 2022, with some 100 chapels and 18,000 workers in the Clark County wedding business alone. The Clark County Marriage License Bureau averages 219 licenses a day to couples, and is open 8 a.m. to midnight.
Different websites and apps have seen an evolution in how their users get news on them from 2020 to 2023. Some have seen a sharp increase in people using them for news, with the percentage of TikTok users who said they used the platform to consume news regularly jumping from 22 percent of TikTok users in 2020 to 43 percent of TikTok users in 2023. Other sites where news consumption has sharply increased include Instagram (28 percent of users to 34 percent) and Twitch (11 percent to 17 percent), with Nextdoor seeing an increase of 5 percentage point in its users getting news there in the past year alone. Other sites are losing their relevance for users when it comes to news, such as Facebook (now 43 percent, down from 54 percent), Reddit, and the desiccated corpse of Twitter that has been possessed by a malevolent spirit known as X.
The USPS is reporting that Americans are getting sloppier at retrieving their mail, with the percentage of Americans who get the mail at the first opportunity down to 77 percent, a decrease of 9 percentage points over the past five years. On some level, this makes sense, because the mail is more likely to be The Bad Mail (spam, crap, bills, ads) than ever before, as levels of The Good Mail (letters to me, alerts that my credit limit has gone up, various Patreon rewards) goes down across the board. All told, first-class single-piece mail volume, which includes letters and cards and the good stuff, is down 26 percent since 2018.
You Are What You Watch is going to be part of the big holiday promotional push from the publisher! What that means for you is that if you want to buy it as a gift, it’s 25 percent off right now and shipping is free with the code CYBER23 on the Hachette website. That’s a really great deal and probably one of the best we’re going to see to score the book.
The 93 active nuclear reactors in the United States consume 2,000 tonnes of uranium a year, and that uranium was only being produced on a commercial scale in Russia. That’s a problem, because things are rather thorny with the Russians right now, and nuclear is seen as an important pillar in decarbonization efforts. Last week, the company Centrus Energy in Maryland announced it has started the first commercial domestic nuclear fuel production in the United States in 70 years, and is on track to produce 20 kilograms of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel by the end of the year, with an expected production of 900 kilograms in 2024. The U.S. is expected to need 40 tonnes of HALEU by the end of the decade, and Centrus — which besides the Russian state-owned Tenex is the only company in the world that can produce HALEU — used gaseous centrifusion to produce it.
In 1981, negotiators from countries from around the world drew a line down the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and said that Europeans can fish for Atlantic tunas east of the line and Canadians, Americans and the Japanese can only fish for them west of the line. The thought was that there are two places in the ocean that Atlantic bluefin tuna spawn, one eastern stock that spawns in the Mediterranean and one western stock that spawns in the Gulf of Mexico, and that by limiting each continent to one of those stocks the fish could recover. For lots of reasons, the bluefin tuna bounced back. But new evidence casts doubt on the very principle of the deal: It appears that there is a previously unknown third spawning area for the tuna, in an area off the coast of North Carolina called the Slope Sea. If that’s the case, the models that manage the tuna population may need a substantial tweak.
Under the Sea
A hedge fund billionaire behind an underwater exploration company has backed what he estimated to be around 30 wreck salvages, some of which can produce a substantial return on investment when it comes to the salvaged treasure sunk beneath the waves. Sometimes those jobs are done out of a personal quest, other times it’s on behalf of clients, but Anthony Clake — who is behind the company Ocean Infinity — was in fact behind the discovery of the wreck of the HMS Endurance, the 2022 discovery that sent all of your polar exploration nerd friends into a massive tizzy last year. Since 2020, the company has bought up an additional 23 remote-controlled full-sized ships, what appears to be the largest private fleet of robotic vessels. Clake also was behind the discoveries of the San José, the SS Minden, the SS Benmohr, the SS Tilawa, and the SS Mantola, many of which were laden with precious metals when they sunk.
I hope everyone enjoyed the conversation with Zach Weinersmith, who with his wife Kelly Weinersmith wrote the brand new book A City On Mars: Can we settle space, should we settle space, and have we really thought this through?. Remember, you can subscribe to the Numlock Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Previously on the Sunday edition, I spoke to The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan, we talked all about the science of personality and her attempts to deliberately change her own personality. Not only are we going to get a book-length treatment on it somewhere down the line, but she’s also launched an excellent new newsletter where she dives into the topic of personality, how we understand the science of it, and how we can take deliberate steps to alter our own. Check it out!
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