Numlock News is a daily newsletter by Walt Hickey that highlights the context and importance of the numbers you read about in the news.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Numlock News: July 19, 2018

By Walt Hickey

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Calorie Counting

A new survey that asked Americans to guess the caloric content of 40 popular meals and snacks found that respondents were rather good at ballpark guessing the health impact of various foods. Granted, they did err on the lower side: of foods that the public overestimated calories, they were off by an average 65 calories, compared to foods the public underestimated calories, where they were off an average of 165 calories. Some foods were more deceptive than others: respondents guessed an average of 755 calories in a double-decker cheeseburger that only had 572 actually, and guessed 284 calories in a 674 calorie strawberry daiquiri. It’s unclear how many respondents took the survey on their birthday, when I believe according to the Magna Carta there are legally 0 calories in everything.

Joanna Piacenza, Morning Consult

Funding for Children

In 2017, 9 percent of the federal budget ($375 billion) was spent on children younger than 19, a figure that is projected to drop to 6.9 percent over the next decade. Of the projected $1.6 trillion increase in federal spending in the next ten years, only 1 cent out of each dollar will go to children’s programs. Scoff all you want, that’s just plain good policy: no society ever gained by investing resources in its children, and history shows us the best way to run a government is to devote most of its resources towards the construction of a gilded sarcophagus for its richest and oldest citizens.

Julia B. Isaacs, Cary Lou, Heather Hahn, Ashley Hong, Caleb Quakenbush, and C. Eugene Steuerle, The Urban Institute

Submarines

Congratulations to Spain, which despite a multi-million dollar engineering foul-up still managed to produce only the second-dumbest submarine news of July. The S-80 submarine, which costs about $1.2 billion, years ago had the problem of being too overweight and unable to resurface after submerging. This forced designers to either contemplate the philosophical difference between a “permanent submarine” and “a boat that we straight-up sunk” or do expensive redesigns to make it buoyant. Those fixes involved lengthening the sub by 33 feet and now they are too big to fit in the docks in Cartagena, prompting dredging that will cost about $18.6 million.

Raphael Minder, The New York Times

Antitrust Penalty

The European Union has hit Google with a €4.3 billion ($5 billion) antitrust penalty for the way it integrates its search and web products with the Android operating system. This beats out the previous record for antitrust penalties, a €2.4 billion antitrust penalty, also for Google, for the way it shut out rivals on its shopping search service. That €4.3 billion fine is about 40 percent of Google’s €12.6 billion in profits last year.

Aoife White, Bloomberg Businessweek and Patrick Smyth, The Irish Times

Refs

According to the National Association of Sports Officials, more than 70 percent of new referees quit the job within three years. This applies across all sports, and surveys found the chief cause was “pervasive abuse from parents and coaches.” This abuse has caused shortfalls in a number of youth sport officials across the country. That’s a shame, because the science as I understand it says the primary reason for youth soccer team losses is children resenting their parents for making them play this stupid game.

Bill Pennington, The New York Times

Spaces After A Period

By an 11-point margin, Americans prefer one space after a period rather than two spaces after a period according to a new HuffPost/YouGov survey with 994 respondents. The gap was most profound among the under-30 demographic, with approximately a 40-point margin of victory for the solitary post-period space. Neither side has a full majority, though: overall 47 percent like one space, 36 percent prefer two spaces, and the other 17 percent is unsure or does not care, the only truly good opinion here.

Ariel Edwards-Levy, HuffPost

Running Shoes

An investigation of race data from about 500,000 long-distance running events since 2014 put Nike’s claims that their Vaporfly sneakers improve runners’ performance over other running shoes to the test. The result? Runners who slipped into the pricey sneaker seriously did run an estimated 3 to 4 percent faster than similar runners wearing other shoes. By a number of different statistical tests, it seriously looks like the shoes — which contain a carbon-fiber plate that stores and releases energy over each stride — give runners a measurable advantage. Racers who switched to the sneaker posted a 68 percent chance of earning a personal record. I saw similar gains when I switched my standard running shoes to a bicycle.

Kevin Quealy and Josh Katz, The Upshot

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Numlock News is a daily newsletter by Walt Hickey that highlights the context and importance of the numbers you read about in the news.