Numlock News: April 7, 2021 • Gas, Cash, Grass

By Walt Hickey


Topps Co., which makes sports trading cards, will go public through a special purposes acquisition company that values the company at $1.3 billion. The trading card boom has been hotter than ever, as perfectly reasonable people who would otherwise have thriving social lives and excellent outdoor hobbies are 14 months into a mental health gauntlet that has led a critical mass to pursue the time-honored niche hobby of trading card collection. Topps had sales of $567 million last year, selling trading cards for a number of partners including the NHL and MLB, as well as several soccer leagues and the WWE. They will trade under the ticker symbol TOPP, presumably in recognition of the point in the market cycle they managed to cash out.

Michelle Chapman, The Associated Press


Lake Superior State University in Michigan will be the first college in the United States to offer an annual $1,200 scholarship for students engaged in the university’s cannabis chemistry program. In 2020 the university opened a 2,600-square-foot facility explicitly for the study of marijuana, which at my school was just known as “the bamboo forest behind the Sunken Garden.” With marijuana becoming increasingly legal in many states and the engines of industry churning around that new legislative playing field, an estimated 500,000 jobs will work in the professional marijuana business by 2022.

Minnah Arshad, Detroit Free Press

Palm Oil

Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced on Monday that the nation has banned imports of palm oil and the planting of new palm plantations, directing producers to rip out existing plantations amid a blowback to the environmentally destructive but nearly omnipresent commodity. Sri Lanka imports 200,000 tonnes of palm oil per year, mostly from Indonesia and Malaysia, and the country’s own palm oil industry has about 11,000 hectares of palm plantations. The government will push producers to rip out the palm plants and replace them with rubber trees or environmentally productive crops.



About 55 percent of public school students in the United States take the bus to school, and 95 percent of those buses have diesel engines. Based on analyses of the pollutant levels out of those engines, the pollutants on the buses are about five to 10 times higher than they are in a nearby area, and there’s further evidence that reducing those pollutant levels has significant public health outcomes. There’s even evidence that retrofitting diesel buses to pollute less is linked to increasing test scores. That’s one reason that the new federal infrastructure legislation’s plan to switch a fifth of the U.S. school bus fleet to electric has promise beyond the green energy angle.

Kelsey Piper, Vox

Off Grid

Despite increasing access across the country, still 7 percent of U.S. adults say they do not use the internet, according to the latest survey from the Pew Research Center. This includes about 25 percent of people aged 65 and up, about 14 percent of people in households earning less than $30,000 per year and about 10 percent of rural households. In 2000, 48 percent of Americans said they didn’t use the internet, which fell to 32 percent in 2005, 24 percent in 2010 and 15 percent by 2015.

Andrew Perrin and Sara Atske, Pew Research Center


A new report pegs Amazon’s share of the U.S. digital ad market at 10.3 percent in 2020, up from 7.8 percent in 2019, bringing in $15.73 billion in revenue and growing at a fast clip. The two giants in the digital ad business — Google, which has 28.9 percent of the market, and Facebook, which has 25.2 percent — are still well ahead. Amazon’s share is projected to increase to 12.8 percent by 2023, so it looks like what was once a cozy duopoly arbitrarily controlling most of the online ad business may very well be expanding to a triumvirate, which always end well.

Alexandra Bruell, The Wall Street Journal

South America

A new study published in Science Advances estimates that human impact in South America expanded by an approximated 268 million hectares from 1985 to 2018, with 40 percent of the landmass — 713 million hectares — impacted by human activity by the end of the study period. The area of natural tree cover in South America was down by 16 percent in 2018, while the amount allocated to pasture was up 23 percent, cropland up 160 percent and plantation up 288 percent. What’s more, about 55 million hectares of what was once natural land cover that was stripped away by human activity now has no clear use whatsoever and is not economically productive.

Viviana Zalles, Matthew C. Hansen, Peter V. Potapov, Diana Parker, Stephen V. Stehman, Amy H. Pickens, Leandro Leal Parente, Laerte G. Ferreira, Xiao-Peng Song, Andres Hernandez-Serna, and Indrani Kommareddy, Science Advances

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