Numlock News: October 21, 2022 • Litter, Salem, Scooters
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
From October 1 to 15, 466,000 people visited Salem, Massachusetts, the town that prides itself on being the the heir to the pre-Halloween Witch vibes that people crave. That’s up from 372,000 visitors last year. All told, there have been 1.6 million visitors to Salem so far this year, on pace to be substantially up from the 1.9 million who swung by last year. Locals blame Hocus Pocus 2 and “witch trends on social media,” which is one of the most oblique ways of referring to Tumblr I have ever heard.
The NBA has worked to drop the number of back-to-back games, as from 2002 to 2015 the average team played 20 back-to-backs, roughly 24 percent of all games. In the 2018-19 season, that average dropped to 13.3 back-to-backs, and in the 2023 season just 16.2 percent of games will be back to back. The league is working to make the rigors on players decline: in 2018, the average team traveled 46,200 miles, a level that in 2023 has crashed to 41,800 miles.
Humans, when walking next to each other, will often synchronize their steps, gradually and subconsciously aligning over the course of a walk. A new study looked at chimpanzees, and sought to figure out if they did the same thing, and the answer generally is yes: our closest primate relatives also eventually move into lockstep out of subliminal social pressure. Across the study, eventually a step by one walker was followed by the step of the same foot of another within 0.5 seconds in about 79 percent of cases.
The 2020-21 academic year saw 1,721 fewer Ph.D.s in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math than the previous year, the largest such drop in 40 years. Interestingly, the decline was not even across the board: the drops in Ph.D.s among physical sciences was down 12 percent, and down 7 percent among life sciences, each of which requires a lot of time in the laboratory that could have been deflected during the pandemic. At the same time, the percentage of math and computer science Ph.D.s were up, given the solitary nature of such pursuits.
While vinyl gets all the headlines, cassette tapes have inexplicably been rising again as an audio format. For what it’s worth, the compact cassette is a pretty cruddy way to distribute music compared to sonically remarkable formats such as CDs and vinyl, which actually deliver quality-wise. Nevertheless, cassettes are back: National Audio Co., the largest cassette manufacturer in the world, is now producing up to 30 million cassettes a year.
Local and state governments spend $1.3 billion a year to control litter, and staff shortages have only made it worse. The issue is, nobody likes litter, but nobody particularly knows how to control it. One study looked into the impact of signage that beseeched people to throw away litter, the result of which was a not-statistically significant mild decline in trash. A larger study related to cigarette butts in 72 sites across several cities found that cleaning up litter reduced cigarette butt litter by 48 percent, and that adding places to throw away butts reduced it by another 20 percent.
As of October 13, the price of Bird stock — that is, the share price behind the scooter company on public markets — is trading for $0.37 per share. This is less than the $0.41 per share seed round, the $0.73 Series A, the $3.18 per share Series B, the $6.35 per share Series C and the $12.92 per share Series D. Needless to say, it’s a bust, and it’s hardly the only gig economy company to lose money after going public: since IPOing, Uber is down 39 percent, DoorDash is down 55 percent, WeWork is down 79 percent and Lyft is down 82 percent.
This week in the Sunday edition I spoke to Rebecca Leber, who wrote “The most annoying barrier to getting your home off fossil fuels” for Vox. Heat pumps fascinate me because they’re a ready-to-go climate solution that has made significant improvements over the past couple decades, and there are still impediments to rolling them out, impediments that Leber excellently talks about in her piece. Leber can be found at Vox and on Twitter.
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