Numlock News: December 3, 2019 • Space, Shrimp, Alarms

By Walt Hickey

Alarming

Hospitals now resemble the soundscape of a particularly slow McDonald’s, with dozens of alarms screeching at any given point for no particular reason. Thousands of alarms go off in a hospital every day, but hospital accreditation organization The Joint Commission estimated 85 percent to 99 percent of alarms don’t actually require any intervention. That alarm fatigue means physicians may miss out on actually consequential alarms. It’s really quite bad: The number of medical devices that generate alarms rose from 10 devices thirty years ago to almost 40 today, with a breathing ventilator alone capable of 30 to 40 different noises, which essentially makes it a Furby attached to a respirator. A 2006 study found in the level below intensive care, 350 alarms went off per patient per day, which is roughly enough to stir me awake most mornings. Now hospitals are investing in software to prioritize the alarms, which sounds great until you realize that’s just going to make more alarms.

Melissa Bailey, Kaiser Health News

Small Potatoes

Potato processors announced cold weather has damaged the potato crop in parts of North America. While Idaho and Alberta were spared, farmers in Manitoba, North Dakota and Minnesota had a rough harvest. An estimated 12,000 acres of potato farmland in Manitoba — 18 percent of the planted area in the province — is unharvested, and a further 6.5 percent of Alberta potatoes are frost damaged. The USDA forecasts U.S. potato output will drop 6.1 percent this year, with a 5.5 percent drop in Idaho. It’ll be rough for french fry makers, as the same large spuds that make for ideal fries are the ones most impacted.

Ashley Robinson, Bloomberg

Vape Bubble

Most of the world’s vapes are manufactured in China, and in 2018 more than 2 million people worked in the industry. Shenzhen accounts for 90 percent of the world’s vaporizers, which would be a very rad sentence if you ignored the fact that vapes are used to turn nicotine into a fine mist and not, say, to disintegrate a bounty hunter. Home to about 1,000 factories of e-cigarette devices and their ilk, the area’s been hit seriously hard by the moratoriums and bans put into force following vaping-related illnesses. Last year the China Electronic Cigarette Chamber of Commerce, which exists, said sales hit ¥33.7 billion, or about $4.8 billion, of which ¥28.7 billion was in exports.

Michael Standaert, The Guardian

Riot

Riot Games will pay $10 million to women they employed over the past five years to settle a class action suit over gender discrimination. The maker of League of Legends brought in $1.4 billion in revenue last year. The game company has been the subject of the suit since several reports from current and former employees described a hostile work environment for women, and since those reports Riot has been working to repair its culture. About 1,000 women who worked at the company since November 2014 are eligible for a payment.

Sam Dean, The Los Angeles Times

Space

Good news for the European Space Agency. Following a meeting of European ministers in Spain, it has seen a considerable increase in its operating budget for 2020 to 2022. The member states pledged €12.5 billion, or the equivalent of $13.8 billion, for the agency over the next several years, 45 percent higher than the €8.6 billion allocated in 2016. That funding will go towards a number of missions, including for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna — which will allow for the observation of black holes through ripples in space-time — to go live in 2032 rather than the previously planned 2034. A surprise winner of the budgeting was the Copernicus program, which will launch six environmental monitoring satellites.

Elizabeth Gibney, Nature

Shrimp

Americans eat four pounds of shrimp annually, making it the most heavily consumed seafood in the country, vastly higher than the next runner-up, salmon, which comes in at 2.4 pounds. But what people may not know is that the vast majority of shrimp — over 90 percent of it — is foreign, some 1.1 billion pounds annually. That’s a problem because where it comes from isn’t awesome, with 50 percent of Thailand’s mangrove forests being cleared since the ‘60s to make room for shrimp farms.

Markham Heid, Heated

Business

An analysis of 569,419 businesses launched in March 1994 found that just 435,134 made it to the end of 1995, 257,488 lasted until 2000 and by the time it got to 2019, just 94,391 of the businesses were still kicking. That’s a 25-year survival rate of just 16.6 percent. Some business types are more durable — 35.2 percent of the management companies founded back then are still kicking, as are 28.4 percent of utilities and 19.9 percent of health care companies — while others are considerably riskier, such as wholesale traders (14 percent), transportation (12.9 percent) or the most foolhardy and risky industry of all, information (11.5 percent), that business that I am in. If you’ll excuse me, I need to figure out how to turn this newsletter into a utility.

Francis Greene, The Wall Street Journal

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