Numlock News: August 20, 2021 • Mists, Phobos, Freezer Burn

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!


The Biden administration announced it will wipe out $5.8 billion in student loans held by 323,000 people who are permanently disabled. This means the Education Department will discharge loans for borrowers with total and permanent disabilities per Social Security Administration records. Currently there is $1.6 trillion held in student loan debt, much of which could be eliminated through executive action.

Melissa Korn, The Wall Street Journal


On Thursday the Federal Aviation Administration proposed a collective $531,545 in civil penalties against 34 airline passengers caught misbehaving on flights, a chunk of change that brings the total levied this year to more than $1 million. The most serious of the fines is $45,000 for a JetBlue passenger who threw objects at other passengers on a May flight from New York to Orlando, prompting an emergency landing in Richmond. Other fines included $10,315 for a passenger who vaped during the boarding process and screamed at a flight attendant, $16,700 for someone smoking in a bathroom on a flight to Ft. Lauderdale, and multiple fines on people who flaunted mask requirements.

Ruthy Muñoz, Skift


JAXA, Japan’s space agency, will launch an explorer in 2024 poised to land on the Martian moon of Phobos, where it’ll collect 10 gram of soil and then return to Earth in 2029. If it pans out, it would put Japan ahead of both the United States and China in attempts to return soil from Mars and its satellites. The Perseverance rover will aim to collect 31 samples of Mars which are to be returned to Earth as soon as 2031, and China hopes to bring back samples around 2030. Last month Japan managed to bring 5 grams of soil from the asteroid Ryugu.

Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press


Near the iconic Unisphere in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park — the big metal sculpture of Earth from the World’s Fairs, the one from the end of Men In Black, or the thing you see when you land at La Guardia — New York installed a $6.8 million mist garden after input from the local community. It’s a new trend in urban parks, helping relaxing locals cool off, and using less than 25 gallons of water per minute. Powered by 504 fog nozzles in the 310 foot pool, it emits a little mist all the time, and is also a visually interesting thing for the Unisphere that isn’t just water jets. In fairness, it would have been way cooler if Kay and Jay fought the big bug in a spooky ethereal mist.

Alexandra Lange, CityLab


The build-your-own-sad-salad business exploded prior to the pandemic, with companies like Sweetgreen and Chopt and Just Salad proliferating across America’s metropolises. Locations grew by 10.6 percent in 2018, and then another 12 percent again in 2019. But with the hollowing out of the central business districts in 2020, the category suffered along with other industries that rely on foot traffic. Despite this, the desk salad business persevered, logging 1.8 percent growth in 2020, with the limited-service salad segment the single-best performing segment in the restaurant biz. Part of this was by moving into the suburbs, and looking forward the chains are eyeing the burbs for more growth.

Deena Shanker, Bloomberg


The Montreal Protocol in 1987 was a worldwide ban on ozone-depleting chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons. A new study looking at the alternative scenario, where the world had not banned CFCs, paints a stark picture and illustrates just how much decisive climate action can accomplish. According the the new simulation, continued uses of CFCs would have made global air temperatures rise by an additional 2.5°C by the end of the century, with a further 580 billion tonnes less carbon stored in forests and soils, and a further 165 to 215 parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It’s a little wild that there is a such thing a societally important episode of Rocko’s Modern Life.

Victoria Gill, BBC News

Ice To Meat You

A study of food waste found that about 27 percent of the total spending on food went to wasted food, and that 1.4 percent of that waste involved frozen food. Freezer burn is a slight contributing factor to food waste; however, given the sheer amount of money that people spend on food, it’s still a huge amount, some $18.25 per person annually or more than $5.89 billion annually. New tech is constantly trying to stop freezer burn by stopping the ice recrystallization that can make some frozen foods unappetizing.

Toni Wang, The Conversation

Lots of great stuff in the Sunday edition lately! Last week I spoke to Rebecca Jennings who wrote “The $5,000 quest for the perfect butt” for Vox’s The Goods, we talked about a controversial cosmetic surgery fueled by social media, Rebecca can be found at Vox and on Twitter.

The previous week I spoke to Frank Pallotta of CNN about the tenuous return of the box office, the ongoing hybrid streaming experiment, and how the expectations game has been impossible, he can be found at @FrankPallotta and at CNN.

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