Numlock News: October 25, 2023 • Solar, Volcano, Voyager
By Walt Hickey
Thanks to everyone who has been talking about the book on social media; it really does mean so much to me. The launch event in New York last night was absolutely amazing. Thank you to everyone who came out to support me!
Today, something like 90 percent of solar panels that come down go to landfills, and eventually every solar panel that is now up must at some point come down, so figuring out to recycle them is imperative. Right now it costs 50 cents to $1.80 each to throw a solar panel in a dump, but $10 to $50 per panel to sort discarded panels and collect any valuable materials. The aptly named We Recycle Solar company is attempting to fill this niche, and this year has processed 500,000 panels, likely processing around 1 million panels by the end of the year. They do this by finding new homes for 60 percent of the panels that come through their gates, reselling them for up to $160 — literally renewed renewables. When they can’t be repaired and sold, they can be pulverized, and the resulting commodities sell for $5 to $7 per panel, or $15 when the panel is old enough to contain a bunch of silver.
Last year Americans bought $88.5 million worth of candy corn, the tricolor treat that comes and goes after about a month and a half every year. The main producer of candy corn is Brach’s, which was responsible for about $75 million of those sales, good enough for 30 million pounds of candy corn. The snack can be controversial among some who don’t necessarily care for its texture or taste, but these people are missing out on the true appeal of candy corn: namely that it is a monument to the triumph of industrialization and supply chains. Our ancestors were forced to eat corn, the stuff that just grows out of the ground; today’s economy can take that corn, turn it into corn syrup, and then take that liquid, and after applying a significant amount of heat and pressure, create a small tricolored sugar triangle that you can sell as “corn” yet again.
Three years ago, researchers found a mouse at the summit of Llullaillaco, which is a 6,739-meter-high volcano in the Andes where oxygen is 40 percent the level observed at sea level, which should be too low for mammals to actually live there. Turns out that is wrong, as researchers have now found five different mouse species that can live above 5,000 meters in the Andes, which is an extreme altitude that had generally been considered beyond the limits of long-term mammalian habitation. The record for highest elevation of residence for mammals previously went to pikas, which were found 6,200 meters up Mount Everest.
A pervasive trend on social media services like TikTok is the shilling of so-called “dupes,” which are cheap alternatives or knock-offs of expensive luxury products. Videos with the dupe hashtag have been viewed 6 billion times, and some of the most commonly duped brands are Skims, Lululemon and Ugg. A new survey found that 31 percent of adults have deliberately bought a dupe of a premium product, including 44 percent of millennials and 49 percent of Gen Z adults. Lots of those dupe aficionados are coming from TikTok: The percentage of people who have purposefully bought a dupe that have TikTok is 70 percent, compared to 45 percent of the overall population.
A Glacier By Any Other Name
A glacier is a region of ice that has been present for 20 years, is at least 0.01 square kilometers, and shows signs of movement. If it’s not all of those, it’s not a glacier; it’s perennial snowpack or rocks. A new study from Portland State University attempted to inventory a lot of areas across the western United States that are often described as glaciers, and found that out of 4,000 areas, only 1,300 could be classified as glaciers and 1,200 would be called perennial snowpacks. Famous glaciers that are not, in fact, glaciers at this point include St. Mary’s Glacier in Colorado, Taylor Glacier in Rocky Mountain National Park, Isabelle Glacier, Moomaw Glacier, Peck Glacier, Petersen Glacier and Grasshopper Glacier. The state of Idaho does not appear to contain any actual glaciers at this point.
The space probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were launched in 1977, and are each still trucking along, reporting back to Earth thanks to nuclear batteries. Those batteries generate a little less power every year — a drop of 4 watts per year — and at some point will not be able to power spacecraft systems that are mission critical, but they’re still projected to make it to 2030 — that is unless other stuff breaks on the spacecraft, which has been increasingly of concern. This weekend, ground controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab will uplink a software patch to Voyager 2, a test to resolve an issue with on-board computers, which will offer a new way to operate thrusters on the spacecraft that keep the antenna pointed toward Earth, adjusting for some propellant residue building up in the spacecraft and extending the life of those propellant inlet tubes by at least five years.
The decision by Best Buy to stop selling DVDs and Blu-ray discs was a bit of a shock for movie fans, as the ramifications of the streaming era felled yet another one of the increasingly few companies hawking physical media. That said, those familiar with Best Buy’s overall business argue that it’s not actually a repudiation of physical media, but rather just a change in what the company is. Best Buy’s actual market share within the disc business was down to 4 percent, which would mean that the entire physical media aisle was just $80 million a year for Best Buy, or under $80,000 per store. With the company taking on some new lines of business — a $400 million investment in buying up a remote patient monitoring company, a big investment into hearing aids — DVDs were just taking up too much real estate as Best Buy attempts to become more of a medical device company.
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.