Numlock News: October 24, 2019 • Cosmic Crisp, Gerald Ford, Polio
By Walt Hickey
The Cosmic Crisp apple is a cross between a Honeycrisp apple and an Enterprise apple, and the long-awaited fruit is finally going to hit the market in early December. Growers have planted 12 million Cosmic Crisp trees, and this year 450,000 40-pound boxes will hit sale, with 2 million boxes projected by 2020. The apple is promising, and is also the subject of a $10.5 million marketing budget, a necessity in an age where even a variety of apple needs to have a concise pitch for discerning consumers. After 20 years of work and a serious amount of R&D, the apple’s creators at Washington State University would very much like to have a hit on their hands.
The film Joker is on pace to become one of the most profitable superhero films of all time, despite the fact that it functionally contains zero superheroes. Made for just $62.5 million, the $744 million worldwide gross means that the film will end up seriously in the black, even accounting for global marketing and distribution costs upwards of $100 million. The comparatively cheap price — a trait it shares with other colossal hits like Deadpool and Venom — is a far cry from the $150 million to $200 million typically thrown at a tent pool superhero flick. It’s also projected to beat out Deadpool and its sequel to become the top-grossing R-rated film. The film tells the story of Batman’s greatest foe: a declining Gotham tax base that led to cutbacks in municipal mental health care.
The Navy has spent $13 billion on the USS Gerald R. Ford, a state-of-the-art combat warship full of technology straight out of the future. I mean this quite literally, as lots of the stuff on the Gerald R. Ford does not work right now as the technology is broken and still needs to be fixed. The aircraft carrier had been scheduled for delivery in 2013 with an anticipated deployment of 2018, which you will recall was last year. Deficiencies with its aircraft launch and recovery equipment — I’m told those are fairly important parts of an aircraft carrier — and every one of its 11 elevators meant delays. The Ford is now scheduled for combat deployment in 2024, fully six years after it was due.
Something like 5 million adults and 1 million children use homeopathy, remedies that, in fact, contain no discernible amounts of the active ingredients and mostly surf the placebo effect to woo converts. Analysts project that the global market for homeopathic treatments will rise 12.5 percent by 2023, and already it’s a $1.2 billion industry. People are beginning to feel cheated: a nonprofit suing Walmart and CVS for hawking such snake oil conducted a survey that found 41 percent of people feel negatively about homeopathy when they learn about the pseudoscience behind it. As a resident of Queens, I am a strong opponent of homeopathy, because if they’re correct that basically means I consume medically effective quantities of La Guardia Airport, Newton Creek and Mets on a daily basis.
The phenomenon referred to as the “Matthew effect” finds that people who have advantages early on in their career will reap larger benefits down the line. That’s been born out by data: a 2018 study that followed researchers in the Netherlands who barely qualified for a grant found that they made twice as much money over the following eight years as those who barely missed out on the grant, with narrow winners 50 percent more likely to have obtained a professorship. That’s naturally a huge bummer, but a new study in Nature Communications has found a serious silver lining. Tracking 1,100 scientists on the border of getting a grant or missing one, over the following decade the scientists who narrowly missed authored more papers and wrote more-cited papers, even after adjusting for higher attrition. Think of it as the opposite of the biblical-named “Matthew effect.” Think of it as “The Chumbawumba Effect,” where they get knocked down, but they get up again, and you ain’t never gonna keep them down.
This week the Global Commission for the Certification of the Eradication of Poliomyelitis proudly announced the worldwide eradication of wild poliovirus type 3, which comes four years after the eradication of wild poliovirus type 2. That means we’re down to just type 1, which is active in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The target for eradication is 2023, ambitious given that would mean that the last cases of polio would have to come next year, as three years of monitoring must follow for a declaration to occur. In 2019 there have been 88 cases of polio so far. The success against the scourge has been real — polio paralyzed 500 to 1,000 children in India per day in the 1990s — and global health professionals are eager to notch a second eradication following the big win against smallpox.
In 2026, the applicant pool to four-year colleges and universities is expected to hit an inflection point and begin to decline, a combination of the generational echo of the Boomers beginning to wrap up and the ambitious math that’s defined higher ed beginning to run into some problems. Beginning that year, the applicant pool is projected to shrink by 280,000 applicants per year each year for the following four years, and colleges and universities in financial peril now will be in dire straits once that goes down.
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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Game of Thrones · Concussion Snake Oil · Skyglow · Juul · Chris Ingraham · Invasive Species · The Rat Spill · The Sterling Affairs · Snakebites · Bees · Deep Fakes · Artificial Intelligence · Marijuana · Mussels ·