Numlock News: September 21, 2023 • Turmeric, Clownfish, Spider Silk
By Walt Hickey
Today is a great day to preorder my book, You Are What You Watch, if you haven’t yet! Preorders mean a ton, and are incredibly important for the success of a book, so preordering would mean a lot to me.
Scientists have long had their eye on spider silk, which has incredibly tensile strength. The issue is that it’s hard to get a lot of it, because spiders are notorious jerks. Put 100 spiders in a small space and they will murder each other until only one or two remain. This makes industrial-tier production of spider silk a pain, compared to silk for instance, as 100 silkworms in a small space will just chill and thus can and have been commercialized. Splicing spider genes into silkworms has been a crapshoot because the spider silk proteins are big and the corresponding genes that facilitate their production are also big. A new study, however, took a small spider silk protein called MiSp and spliced it into silkworms with CRISPR, managing to create transgenic silkworms that produce incredibly strong fibers with remarkably high tensile strength of 1,299 MPa and toughness of 319 MJ/m3, which is six times as tough as Kevlar.
Starbucks is conducting a massive overhaul of their locations to increase efficiency as demand for complicated and cold beverages continues to soar. As it stands, Starbucks has enough customization options such that there are 383 billion ways that a person can order a latte, and given the rise of viral, complicated drink orders, many people are devoted to exploring the frontiers of liquid available at any Starbucks. The goal is to make things faster and cut down on waits; with 37,200 locations, five extra customers per day at each store could increase revenue by $900 million a year. The main switch is the Siren System, which was created to make the production of their cold drinks much more efficient, which should be in 40 percent of outlets by 2026.
New York City has been paying hotels to accommodate incoming migrants, but it appears to be a backdoor way to bail out a hotel industry still reeling from the pandemic’s impacts on tourism. As it stands, over 100 hotels in the city are now housing migrants thanks to a $238 million contract, and it’s propping up the hotel industry with 7,000 rooms closed and 11,000 rooms being paid for by the city housing asylum-seekers. It’s a supremely inefficient way to house people: A housing voucher, which would let asylum-seekers obtain housing the way that everyone else does in the rental market, would cost the city $72 per night, while trying to prop up the hotel industry by way of migrants is costing New York $383 per night.
Video livestreams are the main marketing method for e-commerce in China, with influencers on platforms like Taobao and Douyin moving billions of dollars’ worth of merch. The issue for a livestreamer is that at some point, a human being needs to stop livestreaming and go to sleep, at which point they presumably stop making money. However, several startups have emerged that, with a video sample and a little over a thousand dollars, can produce a deepfake of a streamer that can read a prepared script while the human punches out. Silicon Intelligence can create a basic AI clone off of a minute of video for 8,000 RMB ($1,100), with more sophisticated simulations going for several thousand dollars.
Researchers in Bangladesh found that a major source of lead poisoning was turmeric, a common spice that is yellow and which some unscrupulous spice makers were loading up with lead chromate pigment so as to appear brighter. Bangladesh’s Food Safety Authority cracked down, raiding sellers who were peddling leaded turmeric and making a big media stink about it. It was a smashing success: A study released this month found that the percentage of turmeric samples that had detectable levels of lead dropped from 47 percent in 2019 to 0 percent in 2021, and blood lead levels in affected populations dropped a median of 30 percent. The researchers plan to execute similar campaigns in other countries with similar issues.
After hatching, clownfish larva swim for anywhere from 10 to 15 days, moving up to 35 kilometers in the open ocean, after which they become orange and white and then find a cool anemone to hang out in for the rest of their life. A new study found that the larvae in water that is 3 degrees Celsius warmer than typical develop much faster, with the fish who were raised at 31 C ending up growing 16 percent longer on average after 18 days, an accelerated development that has researchers worried that in a warmer ocean they might not swim as far, which could lead to issues of genetic diversity for the fish.
By the end of the year, Dubai will have more hotel rooms than Las Vegas after a 6.4 percent increase in the number of rooms. As it stands, Vegas has 151,771 hotel rooms, a global record, but by the end of this year Dubai will have 154,000 hotel rooms for travelers, beating out Sin City. They’re also being used; in July, the occupancy rate hit 82 percent, up from 74 percent the same month a year ago. It’s gotten to the point that Dubai is simply building more beachfront so that it can make more beachfront hotels. By 2027, the city is expected to have 163,700 hotel rooms.
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