Numlock News: September 25, 2019 • Medication, Vacation, International Space Station
By Walt Hickey
Sprint took millions in FCC money over subscribers to a federal program that did not exist, the agency said. An FCC program called Lifeline offers $9.25 per month subsidies for low income consumers, but a 2016 tweak — designed to stop carriers from signing up subscribers just to book the subsidy — said that if consumers didn’t use the service for 30 days providers had to begin a process to remove them from the subsidy. Well, Sprint forgot, whoops, but how bad could it be? Pretty bad! They failed to remove 885,000 subscribers. That is 30 percent of Sprint’s customers who used Lifeline subsidies. That is 10 percent of all lifetime subscribers. They continued cashing subsidy checks until the issue was found during an Oregon Public Utility Commission investigation.
The International Space Station finds itself in a really, really elaborate version of the timeless quandary where you need AA batteries but the store is out and you can’t shlep to the other store right now. Two weeks ago, a launch pad fire halted the Japanese Space Agency from firing off a rocket named Kounotori to the ISS containing 4 tons of 6 lithium ion batteries, which will replace the older style batteries that currently power the station. The rocket was en-route as of Tuesday, and presumably also contains milk, eggs and butter, but regrettably the wrong type of coffee filter so the Soyuez is going to have to make a run later.
Groundbreaking new research shatters decades of popular understanding and prompts an upheaval in the way that mankind understands one of its most significant inter-species relationships: cats do actually like people. In a simple attachment test — used with dogs and infants before — 80 kittens under eight months hung out with owners in an unfamiliar room, then the owners left for two minutes, and then returned for two minutes. Animals tend to react as either secure, insecure due to ambivalence, or insecure with avoidance. If I left a puppy alone for two minutes, it would miss me, it I did the same with a hermit crab in a room alone for two minutes it would be indistinguishable from any other two minutes stretch of its life. Of the classifiable kitties, 64.3 percent were securely attached to their owners, which is good! Of the 35.7 percent who were insecurely attached, 84 percent were ambivalent, which sounds right!
It’s too bright out, according to scientists, and it’s disrupting the way the natural world works. Thanks simply to skyglow, the indirect illumination of light bouncing off the atmosphere, cities can be five times brighter than they would be under natural conditions, an effect amplified on overcast night when the reflection of the human light against the clouds can make a city sky be 1,000 times brighter than it otherwise would be. This effect means that city light pollution can still affect otherwise far rural areas, and something like 99 percent of the North American and European populations live under a light polluted sky. From 2012 to 2016, the area lit artificially grew 2.2 percent annually, and 30 percent of light comes from headlights and streetlamps, and others can come from odd places: Tegel Airport in Berlin contributes 4 percent of Berlin’s upward light.
Marriott, the world’s largest hotel chain, is ending the miniature single-use plastic toiletries in its bathrooms in favor of a trendier approach that’s gaining favor across the industry — larger tamper-proof plastic bottles with pumps. The changes will take effect at it’s 7,000 hotels in 132 countries by December 2020. The effect will be considerable given Mariott’s footprint: they’ll save 500 million non-recyclable little plastic bottles per year from hitting landfills. That’s 1.7 million pounds of plastic, 30 percent of its annual usage. Marriott follows InterContinental Hotels Group — the Holiday Inn owner — which announced it’ll make the shift and save 200 million miniature bottles.
NASA announced a $4.6 billion production contract for six Orion spacecraft from Lockheed Martin for capsules which will aid in the agency’s mission to develop a sustainable presence in lunar orbit. Though hardly a bargain — NASA’s paying $900 million each for the first three Orion capsules and $633 million each for the last three — compared to the inflation-adjusted $463 million NASA paid for each Apollo Command and Service Module. NASA and Lockheed have been working on Orion for 15 years of design and development at the cost of $18 billion, so what’s a few hundred million here or there between friends?
Intravenous injections of immune globulin are used for a number of different medical issues but is FDA licensed for just six. It’s used off-label for all sorts of severe medical issues, as injecting a bunch of antibodies into the bloodstream has positive effects for all sorts of immuno-compromised patients, but the issue is that when there’s a shortage (like there is right now) typically hospitals and clinics have to triage and make impossible choices about who gets the supply. IVIG costs anywhere from $6,800 to $10,000 per 10-gram dose, and off-label use had increased 66 percent from 2012 to 2018, with global sales hitting $22.6 billion. That striking rise in off-label usage is a problem because it’s hard to make the product of a complex manufacturing product reliant on donated blood plasma.
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