Numlock News: September 8, 2023 • Comet, Manatees, Classical
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend! I got a particularly cool guest for the Sunday edition this week, so everyone is going to get it.
Conservationists have been horrified by a die-off of Florida’s fragile manatee population over the past several years, but the latest data offers some hope that the species’ decline may be stabilizing a bit. This year through August 25, 431 manatees have died, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, well below the 669 manatees that died over the same period of 2022 and the 928 manatees that died over the period in 2021. The deaths are related to a seagrass die-off in the Indian River Lagoon, which is the central habitat of the manatees, but the good news is that the seagrass appears to be recovering and the manatees are not starving at the rate they had been. The most significant cause of death for manatees is watercraft, with 72 killed this year by boats.
Musical artists can sometimes have a bit of fun when titling their songs, maybe adding in weird stylizations like random umlauts, abbreviations like “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince, or the classic changing an “s” to a dollar sign. These have ebbed and flowed in popularity, with ‘90s hip-hop, 2000s alt rock and indie, and the rise of Gen Z stylization (like “idontwannabeyouanymore” by Billie Eilish, you know what I mean) becoming particularly innovative eras for this kind of title tomfoolery. Prior to the 1990s, typically less than 3 percent of songs that made the Hot 100 had these kinds of stylations, but since then they’ve been very in style (typically 4 percent to 8 percent of songs through the mid-2000s) then very out of style (less than 4 percent from around 2006 to 2018) and now robustly popular yet again, north of 7 percent.
A survey of women who married men found that 79 percent took their spouse’s last name, 14 percent kept their own last name, and 5 percent said they hyphenated both of the last names together. Among men who married women, 92 percent kept their name, while 5 percent said they took their wife’s last name and 1 percent said they hyphenated their names. The percentage of women who kept their last name is 20 percent among respondents 18 to 49 and just 9 percent among respondents 50 and up, and were highest among women with a postgraduate degree, where a total of 31 percent either kept their name or hyphenated both.
In March, Apple launched a separate standalone music app called Apple Music Classical to cater to fans of classical music, who are underserved by the rigid structures of your typical music app given some of the unique elements in how the genre is consumed. Classical music is a niche — it’s just 0.8 percent of streams — but a growing one, as the growth in streaming in 2022 for the genre outpaced the growth of streaming listening as a whole, expanding 13.4 percent in 2022. That’s one reason why Apple, the largest computer company in the world, has made the unique decision to simply purchase BIS Records, a Swedish classical music record label with a catalog of over 5 million tracks.
The Comet Is Coming
A comet discovered by an amateur Japanese astronomer in mid-August is passing through our solar system, and will be visible to stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere within a few days. The comet — named Nishimura after its discoverer — last visited the solar system around 430 years ago, just two decades before the invention of the telescope. It’s a half-mile in size and will pass Earth within 125 million kilometers on September 12, and will be visible on the northeastern horizon an hour and a half before dawn, ideally with a good pair of binoculars. It’ll be the last chance to take a peek at this comet for another four hundred years.
Offshore wind projects are facing some economic headwinds, with the per-kilowatt price rising amid higher costs of accessing capital amid rising interest rates, hitting $4,000 per kilowatt. Large offshore wind installations need a lot of money up front, and that’s causing problems. By comparison, an onshore wind farm costs around $1,363 per kilowatt to build out. The cost to build offshore is up 36 percent since 2019, while land-based wind products have seen costs rise just 5 percent over the same period. Wind projects that are offshore are also susceptible to bottlenecks that their landlubbing peers aren’t, including bottlenecks getting that electricity onshore.
Littoral Combat Ships
The U.S. Navy is already retiring some of its newest ships in the littoral combat ship format, with the program generally considered to be a massive boondoggle and expensive failure. The ships are bad at core missions like minehunting and hunting submarines, and get awful fuel mileage that causes logistical problems. The ships, which were designed to last 25 years, are being mothballed after less than a decade. The Navy originally planned on 50 ships before cutting the order to 32, but members of Congress pushed them to up that to 35. The original plan was that the ships cost no more than $220 million each, but they ended up costing $500 million each. The lifetime cost of the LCS class of ships might end up reaching $100 billion.
This week in the Sunday edition, I was thrilled to talk to my friend Matt Lynley, who wrote “Hugging Face's next act: growing into a $4.5B valuation” for his excellent newsletterSupervised. AI is buzzy, and I like Matt’s view on it. Lots of people allowed themselves to be dazzled at the promise of what social networking could be, only to neglect the real business going on underneath. Matt’s doing that reporting when it comes to AI, looking at the actual business that’s developing and not just the Skynet-style hype. The interview is really interesting, check it out. Matt can be found at Supervised.
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