Numlock News: August 1, 2018

By Walt Hickey

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Golf, Airports and Delaware

A Bloomberg analysis of American land use found that of the 1.9 billion acres that make up the 48 contiguous states, 654 million acres are pasture and range, 538.6 million acres are forest, 391.5 million acres are cropland, 168.6 million acres are special use (national parks, highways airports and Defense Department land), 69.4 million acres are urban and 68.9 million acres are miscellaneous. You can drill down pretty far on that: there’s about 1 million acres converted to urban land every year. There’s 2 million acres of golf courses and 6 million acres of airports and railroads. Delaware is only 1.25 million acres. The top 100 private landowners hold a collective 40 million acres, which is bigger than Florida.

Dave Merrill and Lauren Leatherby, Bloomberg

Construction Workers

In 2016, there were 10.2 million construction workers in the U.S., down from 11.7 million in 2005 and down even from the post-housing crisis level of 2010. The number of construction workers aged 24 or younger is also down nearly 30 percent over that period. Builders frame that as a labor shortage and also smear younger people as “disinterested” in the work. Maybe they should try, and I’m just throwing this out there, paying people more money than what they are currently offering if they’re having problems finding people to do the labor they require. I know, mind-blowing, but maybe better pay or any benefits could work better than crying to the Wall Street Journal about how hard it is to find good help these days.

Laura Kusisto, The Wall Street Journal

Alternative Rock

This weekend is Lollapalooza, and festivals like these offer a fascinating look at the changing musical soundscape of popular acts. In 2014, for instance, 25 percent of acts were alternative rock, a figure down to 14 percent in 2018. The difference has gone to acts in rap, hip-hop, pop and electronic music. You can see similar shifts at other festivals as well: over five years span, Bonnaroo went from 10 percent electronica to 27 percent, while Coachella saw hip-hop, rap and pop go from a combined 18 percent up to 31 percent.


Women Onscreen

Yesterday was one of my favorite days of the year, because the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released their annual study counting up the total number of speaking roles in the top-100 films of the year. They now have the past 11 years studied and the result is a disturbing portrait of how women are systematically excluded from movies. In 2017, only 31.8 percent of speaking characters in movies were women, virtually unchanged from 31.5 percent in 2016, 31.4 percent in 2015, 28.1 percent in 2014, 29.2 percent in 2013, 28.4 percent in 2012, 31.2 percent in 2011, 30.3 percent in 2010, 32.8 percent in 2009, 32.8 percent in 2008 and 29.9 percent in 2007. Fun fact, if only 32 percent of our species was women we would probably die off.

Stacy L. Smith, Marc Choueiti, Katherine Pieper, Ariana Case and Angel Choi, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.

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Beach Creatures

In Southern California, 150 miles of beaches are regularly groomed, which gathers up enormous quantities of trash either left behind or washed ashore. There’s an issue, though: the grooming is eliminating life from the beaches too. An estimated 2 tons of decaying kelp washes up every kilometer every day, and when you remove that you also kick out the bottom rung of the food chain. This starves beach hoppers — which can reach 100,000 individuals on every meter of beach and devour 20 kilograms of rotting kelp per month — which in turn starves all the other denizens of the beach that live off beach hoppers and so on. As a result of the grooming you eliminate an ecosystem.

Brendan Borrell, Hakai Magazine

Car vs. Creature Contests

There are estimated to be over 1 million collisions every year resulting from a U.S. car hitting an animal to the annual cost of $8 billion in repairs and injuries. Nobody’s saying we’re going to stop every deer in Jersey from doing their best impression of a matador, but there are a few ways municipalities have tried to mitigate the harm from these kinds of accidents, mainly by creating animal bridges.

Sarah Holder, CityLab

Blockchain Dollars

Blockchain technology, the same digital ledger that makes decentralized online currency possible, is right now a $700 million market for companies trying to incorporate the tech into their business. It’s still niche — a survey found only 1 percent of Chief Information Officers reported the active use of blockchain tech in their business and only 8 percent said they were even experimenting with it — but the companies earning that $700 million should sound familiar. IBM and Microsoft have grabbed 51 percent of blockchain spendings (32 percent and 19 percent, respectively), and Accenture got 17 percent, with the remaining 33 percent of dollars going to the rest of the blockchain biz.

Olga Kharif, Bloomberg

CORRECTION, Aug. 1, 2018: Forests cover 538.6 million acres, not 588.6 million acres. I regret the error.

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