Numlock News: November 2, 2021 • Atacama, Roblox, Moose
By Walt Hickey
In what is unquestionably the most significant news of the past two weeks in the world of developing an online “metaverse,” Roblox suffered a three-day outage over Halloween weekend. About 46.6 million people use the platform — ostensibly a Lego-esque building game, but also the online locale for interpersonal online hangouts — on a daily basis, per the most recent data. Back-of-the-napkin, given the $454.1 million hauled in last quarter, a three-day outage should ding the company only around $15 million in lost revenue. The stock, however, took a real gut punch, closing down 3.4 percent and wiping out $1.66 billion from the Roblox market cap. Even still, shares are trading 80 percent above the reference price of $45 when the company went public in March.
A new study of plant life in the Chilean Atacama desert, among the oldest and driest places on Earth, has turned up 265 separate genes that emerged as the species in question evolved to live there, a rolodex of protein sequences that are of interest to researchers who want to help other plants survive under severe heat and long periods without water. The researchers collected samples of 32 plants in the Atacama and compared them to 32 genetically similar plant species from outside the desert. They analyzed 1.7 million protein sequences to find the 265 that were of interest.
Most Dangerous Game
The moose population in Maine stands at roughly 65,000, up significantly over the past couple years. Moose thrive in forests that are regrowing, and logging in Maine meant a lot more moose. There’s an issue, though, and that’s the moose driving a massive tick infestation — compared to other mammals, moose are terrible groomers and a single moose can rack up enormous numbers of ticks — with some of the animals dying due to tens of thousands of ticks biting them. To help keep the population of ticks in check, Maine is trying to keep the population of moose in check, and has issued 4,030 moose-hunting permits this fall compared to 3,135 last year.
A new analysis found 730 municipalities in the United States that rely on fines and fees for more than 10 percent of their budgets, places that optimize their police forces to use traffic tickets and court fees as a source of revenue rather than a standard penalty for offense. It can get extreme: Henderson, Louisiana, is home to 2,000 people and a town that collected $1.7 million in fines in 2019 accounting for 89 percent of municipal revenues. Officers were accused of illegally getting rewards for tickets.
A new study of the publics of 16 other countries found that other countries perceive the U.S. to be pretty good at technology, entertainment, the military and higher education, but have a deeply unenviable health care system and merely mediocre standard of living overall. All told, the median country thought the U.S. had the “best” or “above average” technological achievements 72 percent of the time, superior entertainment offerings 71 percent of the time, a better military 69 percent of the time and best or above average universities 59 percent of the time. However, when asked about standard of living compared with other developed countries, just 33 percent said above average, 40 percent said average, and 25 percent said below average, and when asked about health care 66 percent said below average or the worst. So to be clear, really great network TV medical procedurals, great places to study pre-med, great at causing injuries when it wants to, incredible bleeding edge technology, but for the love of god do not get sick here.
Coastal darkening is a complex process that results in less light getting through the water to the plants below. It’s got several causes — plant matter from terrestrial trees washing out to sea and occluding the views, straight-up particulate pollution, the usual suspects — and a new study reveals how detrimental it can be for kelp forest habitats below. Researchers installed light loggers at a number of sites and found that the darkest site got 63 percent less light than the lightest one, and that the rate at which the kelp converted sunlight into organic matter was 95 percent lower there. This has consequences beyond the health of the kelp ecosystem, as coastal darkening was found to cause the forests to fix 4.7 times less carbon, bad news when research shows kelp forests can sequester 200 million tonnes of carbon a year.
A new report from the CDC describes inappropriate uses of “luster dusts” in cake frostings, additives that can give a unique sheen to a cake but when overused can cause poisonings. One case in Rhode Island connected a series of illnesses from a 2018 birthday party to a layer of frosting laced with rose gold. To be clear, the resulting cake appears to have the polish of C-3PO, and I’ll be the first to say it would look awesome on Instagram. Unfortunately, while the dust was “nontoxic” it was also “nonedible” and contained 22.1 milligrams of copper per gram of frosting, or roughly 900 mg of copper per slice, roughly 1,000 times the daily recommended intake of copper for adults at a kid’s birthday party. Of the other luster dusts seized from the commercial bakery under investigation, 28 had elevated levels of “aluminum, barium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, nickel, and zinc,” which makes this a healthy balanced dessert for pretty much only the Iron Giant.
Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.
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.