Numlock News: August 14, 2018

By Walt Hickey

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Barns for Weddings

Barn weddings are so hot right now — The Knot reported 15 percent of American couples got hitched in a barn or farm in 2017, up from 2 percent in 2009 — and banquet halls are now actually worried. Banquet halls saw their share of the wedding cake fall from 27 percent to 17 percent according to the same set of surveys. Now, banquet halls are making some noise in places like Wisconsin, arguing for heavier regulation of former agricultural establishments re-branded as hosting sites. There’s solid money on the line: an average Wisconsin wedding cost $26,000, $12,000 of which went to the venue.

Stephanie Morse, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Paul Is Dead

A statistical analysis of the Beatles song “In My Life” has gotten to the true writer behind the song. John Lennon and Paul McCartney agreed to share credit on every song either of them wrote, but in the decades since we actually have a fairly good idea of who wrote what, with the exception of “In My Life,” which each artist thought they wrote. A new analysis that found 149 very distinct transitions in Beatles songs unique to each artist has a new answer: John wrote it. The probability that McCartney wrote it, according to the Harvard and Dalhousie mathematicians who analyzed it, is a mere 0.018 chance.

Scott Simon and Ned Wharton, NPR


Marine worms are now eating plastic, and I know that sounds like it’s a good thing but believe me somehow “we convinced an invertebrate to eat our waste” is worse than the alternative. See, just because worms are eating styrofoam does not mean that they are digesting it, much to the contrary: an analysis of polychaetes found that the result of 10 worms chowing down on styrofoam simply produced 1,306 millimeter-sized chunks of styrofoam. Another study found that an adult worm can excrete 1,600 particles a day. So if garbage was bad, that same garbage but now in the form of thousands of tiny beads after being passed through a worm is a little worse.

Michael Allen, Hakai Magazine

Hot Cities

There are 354 major cities on the planet with average summer temperatures above 35C, or 95 degrees Fahrenheit. A study by the C40 alliance puts that count at 970 major cities. The forecast also puts the number of urbanites in those cities at 1.6 billion.

Jonathan Watts and Elle Hunt, The Guardian

Indie Bookstores

From 1995 to 2009, the number of independent bookstores in the U.S. fell 43 percent thanks to a cocktail of chain stores and the internet. But as the same headwinds that gave Barnes and Noble a boost reverse — been to a mall lately? — the indies are striking back. There were 2,470 independent book stores in 2018, up from 1,651 in 2009, and stores in the American Booksellers Association reported sales were up 5 percent this year so far.

Alexandra Alter and Tiffany Hsu, The New York Times

Glaciers in Glacier National Park

Every state west of the Mississippi River is in some state of drought. Glacier National Park in Montana is an interesting example of a place where the long-term and short-term effects of climate change can be seen. On one hand, the closest city to the park hasn’t had any measurable rain in 40 days, and is poised to beat last year’s record dry stretch. On the other, there were 150 glaciers in the area in 1850 and there are now only 26 glaciers.

Eric Holthaus, Grist

Property Taxes

Apple is by far the company with the most open appeals with Santa Clara county when it comes to how much it should be paying in property taxes, with 489 open appeals dating back to 2004. The company disputes what the assessor valued at $8.5 billion in property. In one of those appeals, Apple says that a cluster of properties in the vicinity of Apple Park is not, as the assessor says, worth $1 billion, but is in fact worth only $200. In another dispute, a property that the assessor valued at $384 million Apple countered with, again, $200.

Catherine Ho, The San Francisco Chronicle

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