Numlock News: September 13, 2022 • Floppies, Elton, Sublimation
By Walt Hickey
While floppy disks are not being manufactured any more, they’re still needed, and when they are people will turn to companies that refurbish and resell the antiquated memory format like Floppydisk.com. The most in-demand are the 3.5-inch blank floppy disks, which have a capacity of 1.44 megabytes, and they’ve gone from about 10 cents apiece to a dollar apiece as supply dwindles and the machinery to make them simply stops existing. Among the unused disks that survive to today, about 30 percent don’t work, and it’s turned out that the best disks are the ones made during the era of mass production from 1985 to 2000. The biggest buyers outside of hobbyists are the airline industry — if the plane is more than 20 years old it probably still uses floppy disks in the avionics — the medical equipment business and the embroidery business, which uses thousands of machines that need floppy disks to operate. Basically, if the industry still has a ton of valuable equipment from the 1990s, they’re buying secondhand floppies to keep the lights on. I apologize for sharing the cursed knowledge that next time you fly in an older jet there’s a decent chance a floppy disk is keeping the bird in the air.
Disney dropped $30 million to buy the exclusive livestreaming rights to Elton John’s last concert in the United States, which has now been scheduled for November 20 in Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and will be livestreamed on Disney+. It’s the last stop on the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour and will also have an accompanying documentary as part of the package. The venue has significance because in 1975 Elton played two sold-out shows that were integral in securing his trans-Atlantic bona fides.
In frozen climates, it’s not uncommon to see frozen lakes with stones on them, and the stones are held up by a little tiny pedestal of ice, somewhat resembling balanced stones in a Zen garden. It’s weird, and there have been a number of theories as to why it happens and what makes the ice do that. One component could be that the pebble blocks light from the sun and slows down sublimation, the process by which where the solid ice becomes a gas. A laboratory experiment using an aluminum disc in lieu of a pebble found this is likely the case, as after 40 hours of sublimation at a rate of 8 to 10 millimeters of sublimation per day, they were able to replicate the effect and show that the rocks become basically a parasol.
Whales communicate using a series of clicks that are termed codas, and it’s possible to understand where a whale comes from based on different types of codas that function similar to dialects. A team of 27 researchers studying sperm whales in the Pacific gathered whale communications across 23 locations as part of the Global Coda Dialect Project, and they were able to extract 23,000 codas. After an analysis, they were able to split them up into seven sperm whale vocal clans with unique identity codas and dialects, and found that the further apart the groups were physically the more distinct they are in dialect.
According to internal documents, Instagram users spend 17.6 million hours a day watching Reels, which is a tiny fraction of the 197.8 million hours a day that TikTok users spend on the platform. Instagram’s competitor to TikTok is in decline as of August, with Reels engagement down 13.6 percent in the previous four weeks. The issue is that Instagram’s users don’t actually want to make content on Instagram: while there are 11 million creators on the platform, only 20.7 percent post every month.
FEMA predicts that the area in the United States with a 1 percent chance of annual flooding will increase by 45 percent by the end of the century. While that’s a low number in a given year, over the course of a 30-year mortgage you’re looking at a solid 25 percent chance of flood damage. When the government draws maps to update this, people get mad that they were “drawn into a floodplain” and begin complaining and suing and paying to get their own maps made, all because they want to avoid having to buy insurance. One investigation found 500 instances where FEMA remapped waterfront properties into lower-risk areas after such lobbying. For many, this will be fine, but it is a gamble, and inevitably lots of people are going to get flooded and not expect it.
Extensive treaty negotiations at the United Nations failed to lead to a final result on protecting large swathes of marine areas, and a major issue that scuttled it came down to profit sharing over commercializing the genetic resources of the sea. Ocean organisms provide the basis of drugs like remdesivir, which treats COVID, the drug Halaven, which is an anticancer drug derived from a sea sponge, and since the 1950s about 34,000 marine compounds have been found with commercial potential. All told, the marine biotech industry, which mines the genomes of marine organisms, is projected to be worth $6.4 billion by 2025.
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