Numlock News: April 22, 2021 • Tonnes, Germinates, Steel

By Walt Hickey


If you are not currently very aggravated about the sky-high price of lumber, you probably know someone who is — text a parent or a hobbyist friend or something. The price of lumber is up 85 percent in 2021 and hit $1,326.70 per 1,000 board feet on Monday. This is almost entirely to the benefit of sawmills, because the trees that are turned into lumber are incredibly cheap right now. On March 31, Louisiana pine sawtimber was going to $22.75 per short ton, the lowest since 2011. The spread in price between 1,000 board feet of lumber and the eight short tons of logs needed to make it hit $1,144 on Monday, a vast spread that is the source of great consternation for people who need wood for things, which turns out is many people.

Marcy Nicholson, Bloomberg


One of the world’s longest experiments continued last Thursday on the campus of Michigan State University when a researcher dug up a discreetly buried bottle that contained sand and some truly old seeds. It’s the Beal seed viability experiment, an experiment that wants to find out how long seeds can remain dormant without losing the ability to germinate. It’s been running for 142 years, and every 20 years the caretakers dig up a bottle, take out some of the seeds stowed away in 1879, plant them, and see what happens. William James Beal buried 20 such bottles, each containing 50 seeds of 21 different species.

Cara Giaimo, The New York Times


According to prosecutors, a swathe of steel mills across the Midwest were purchased by a Ukrainian oligarch in order to launder money stolen from a bank, mills that suffered as a result through lax safety practices and eventual closures that impacted thousands of workers, who were unwitting pawns in an international money laundering scheme. According to an investigation, the purchases — which by 2015 numbered 13 steel factories, five skyscrapers, a hotel, two office parks and a factory — were made with at least $490 million transferred into the country, along with another $268 million later. In 2016, four of the steel companies — Michigan Seamless Tube, Kentucky Electric Steel, Corey Steel and Niagara LaSalle — declared bankruptcy citing debts of $381 million, and Warren Steel shut down, laying off 162 people and leaving behind hazardous waste. Ihor Kolomoisky has been accused in a lawsuit of $5.5 billion in loan fraud,and in 2021 was blacklisted from entry into the U.S.

Michael Sallah, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bet on the Ponies

In early 2019, the online game Zed Run was launched by Australian game studio Virtually Human. The game is all about digital horses — racing them, trading them and breeding them. Their first year saw sales of 4,450 of the fictional horses for an average price of $30, and was an early use of the NFT tech that has, uh, become a little more widespread so far. The pixelated pony business is heating up, and Zed is now home to 11,000 digital horses sold, with another 8,000 digital bred across some 3,600 digital stables. This has naturally led to investment, with some multimedia mares outselling their analog equine brethren, with rare fake horses selling for over $15,000 regularly and one horse commanding a price of $125,000. On one hand, I know Pokémon and this just seems like Pokémon for people who made too much money in their twenties. On the other hand, Tron Legacy ruled and if they need to reskin the bikes as horses to make a buck I don’t care I’ll still watch.

Jacob Feldman, Sportico

Ad Fraud

According to a report from a cybersecurity company, a group of fraudsters has exploited a vulnerability in the streaming TV app ad market, spoofing an average of 650 million ad placement opportunities per day by infecting nearly 1 million mobile devices and having them mimic streaming TV apps. Streaming apps and the platforms that host them will command an estimated $13.4 billion in ad spending in 2021, with premium prices approaching $25 per thousand impressions owing to the captive viewers.

Patience Haggin and Jeff Horwitz, The Wall Street Journal


According to the forecast from the International Energy Agency, carbon dioxide emissions will rise to 33 billion tonnes in 2021, up 1.5 billion tonnes from the depressed 2020 levels. That would reverse about 80 percent of the decline observed between 2019 and 2020. Overall energy demand is expected to rise by 4.6 percent in 2021, while green energy sources will make up only around 30 percent of the total, and coal usage will increase in many parts of the world.

Paola Rosa-Aquino, New York Magazine


A link between extreme winter weather and receding sea ice is theoretically explained by the ice preventing the evaporation of Arctic waters. A new study using new instruments installed in the far north was able to determine that about 88 percent of the snowfall in the 2018 “Beast of the East” winter storm that slammed Europe — an estimated 140 billion tons of snow — came from increased evaporation of water in the Barents Sea, which is north of Russia. The Barents Sea has seen March sea ice levels drop 54 percent since 1979.

K.E.D. Coan, Ars Technica

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