Numlock News: September 29, 2020 • Weeds, Farmville, Esports
By Walt Hickey
After 11 years, Farmville is closing up shop on Facebook. Launched in 2009, the game basically invented the concept of the viral Facebook game, hitting 73 million monthly active users in that first year. Things have changed a lot since then: no longer is the answer to “what’s the worst thing Facebook has done to American society?” an agriculture-based freemium, real-time strategy game. With the coming death of Adobe Flash online, Farmville will now only exist as its insanely profitable standalone apps. In-app purchases will be available until November 17, and the game will stop being playable on December 31. Farmville 3 will be released on iOS and Android soon.
YouTube, best known as the popular service that distributes lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to and bossa nova covers of the soundtracks of Hayao Miyazaki, apparently also produces other videos besides those two I’ve recently learned, and a new survey finds that it’s also an enormously popular source of news! About 26 percent of U.S. adults get news from YouTube, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center, and those who do skew younger and are more likely to be male than the general population. Of those who get news from YouTube about 13 percent say it is the most important way they keep up with news.
By a two-to-one margin, a poll of 1,929 Americans conducted in August found that respondents rejected the idea that the Postal Service should be “run like a business” in favor of running it like a public service, a belief prevalent among half of Republicans, 69 percent of Independents and 82 percent of Democrats. Recent slowdowns in the service have not gone unnoticed: among those polled, a little more than half said mail takes more days to arrive than it did at the same time last year, 42 percent said mail comes later in the day, 37 percent said there’s less mail delivered than usual, and 17 percent said the recent changes have caused a “major problem” for them.
Lots of established sports leagues may have a youth problem, in that their fanbases are failing to replenish with new blood. A new survey compared how often Americans identified as fans of a sport with how often people aged 13 to 23 identified as avid or casual fans, and the findings are trouble for pretty much every sport that is not the NBA, UFC or a video game. Fully 35 percent of the Gen Z respondents identified as fans of Esports, beaten only by the NFL (49 percent), NBA (47 percent) and college football (37 percent) The problem for football is that rate of fandom is below that of all adults, where 59 percent are fans of the pro game and 48 percent of the college game. Pro leagues that are suffering significantly include Major League Baseball (50 percent of adults are fans but merely 32 percent of younger respondents) and the NHL (38 percent versus 25 percent).
The Salk Crops project is researching ways to genetically modify weeds to grow deep, hefty root structures made out of a cork-like polymer that would effectively turn the plants into living carbon-sequestering organisms, removing CO2 from the atmosphere and burying it underground. The goal is not simply to make better weeds, but to incorporate those properties into croplands to turn the hundreds of millions of acres of crops around the world into industrialized photosynthetic carbon dioxide removal fields. Key is suberin, a major constituent of cork that is impermeable to water and hard to break down, guaranteeing that the carbon once sucked out of the atmosphere is not liberated by some microbe. Worldwide there are 214.3 million acres of wheat, 193.7 million acres of corn, 167.1 million of rice, 124.9 million of soybeans, between 30 million and 50 million of cotton, millet, beans, rapeseed, sorghum and barley, and 495.4 million acres of all other crops. If just one of those can be modified to get better at taking carbon out of the atmosphere, the effects can move the needle.
In 2008, General Motors entered into an agreement where it got $60.3 million in tax credits from the state of Ohio provided it retained 3,700 jobs through 2028. They did not hold up their end of the bargain, folding their Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant in March 2019 and cutting over 4,000 jobs in the process. Normally, the story ends there — company makes promises, company accepts money, company reneges on promises, they get away with it — but the Ohio Tax Credit Authority took the step of going after GM, requiring it to invest $12 million in the area and refunding $28 million in tax credits.
Serenity Industrial Complex
The past several months have been challenging to say the absolute minimum, an engine of anxiety and stress that’s caused damage across society, sparing basically nobody. Except the companies that make lots of money by trying to clear your head through guided meditation, things are going pretty great for them right now, actually. Between March and August, meditation app Calm spent $15.6 million on television ads, and rival Headspace invested $27.3 million on its ad campaign. The real money in the meditation game, though, comes from getting money out of employer-sponsored health insurance programs. Headspace for Work has 1,100 partners and Calm for Business had 300 clients last October, but in order to get reimbursed by insurance companies they’re going to have to prove scientifically they actually work, and that’s a steep hurdle for wellness tech: a literature review of the science behind 1,009 wellness and stress management apps turned up just 21 which were supported by original research publications.
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