Numlock News: February 22, 2019

By Walt Hickey

The Oscars are imminent! Want to have the inside track on who’s ahead? Check out the awards coverage in the Numlock Awards Supplement, and if you’re just tuning in start here.

Malaria Guinea Pigs

In 2017, malaria caused 435,000 deaths. There are lots of things you can do to aid in the fight against malaria, but one of the wilder decisions is to volunteer to get malaria so that you can be used as a test subject to determine the efficacy of new vaccines. Naturally, you’ll be fine and taken care of under the program, and it pays pretty well too: a vaccine trial through the Jenner Institute at Oxford pays £2,445, or about $3,200, for malaria volunteers. Over 1,000 people have been deliberately infected with malaria for research purposes, and they’ve all been fine.

Kelsey Piper, Vox

Oscar Night

An analysis of the Oscar presentations from 2014 to 2018 found that if producers seriously wanted to cut back on the ceremony length, the answer is probably electric scooters. Over the time period studied, an average of 4.2 minutes was spent opening envelopes, so they could easily shave a cool minute using cheaper adhesive. 10.1 minutes is on applause, which is deserved. There’s 13.8 minutes on songs, 24.3 minutes on banter and intros, 25.5 minutes of the host speaking, 29.7 minutes on speeches, all of which seem fairly essential to the nature of the event. So where to we trim a little fat? Well, 37.6 minutes is spent on film clips and packages, so maybe we try to keep those moving a little bit. But the big time suck is in walking: walking up to the stage, off the stage and on to the stage which took up 24.3 minutes. The answer is obvious: Meryl Streep needs heelies.

Ellen Gamerman and Mike Sudal, The Wall Street Journal

School Nurse

The school nurse was long a fixture of primary schools. After all, who else can students rely on for basic medical care, routine preventative medical instruction, or a place to go during gym class? The American Academy of Pediatrics now says there should be at least one nurse in every school, and pre-2016 said there should be one nurse for every 750 students. Across America, that simple standard is rarely met, which requires teachers who should be educating instead to devote time to serving as elementary EMTs. This has prompted strikes as teachers demand the restoration of support staff, and the numbers really bear out how bad it’s become: in California, there was one nurse for every 2,370 students.

Ana B. Ibarra, Kaiser Health News


Sales of non-traditional cuts of meat are booming, with an increasing number of people game to try parts of the animal that were long absent in the foodie scene due to snobbery or mass production. They’re also cheaper: the same weight of sirloin flap is 46 percent the cost of a piece of beef tenderloin, flank steak is 34 percent of that price and outside skirt is a mere 28 percent. The trendiness is causing some supply issues even: Dig Inn, a restaurant with a number of locations in New York and Boston, will take flank steaks off the menu. Given that there’s only three pounds of flank steak on a cow and they were going through 3,000 pounds a week, the company is now moving to other cuts like trim, top sirloin and chuck roll.

Lydia Mulvany and Leslie Patton, Bloomberg

Wait, What?

Small, but nonetheless breathtaking, numbers of Americans barely interact with people out of their race, party, religion or sexual orientation. According to a new poll from PRRI, 62 percent of Americans said they interacted with people who didn’t share their race or ethnicity at least once a week, while 21 percent said that happened seldom or never. That’s not even the worst of it: 22 percent said they seldom or never interacted with people outside of their religion and 23 percent said they seldom or never interacted with people who didn’t share their political party. The biggest jump? A full 31 percent said they seldom or never interacted with people who did not share their sexual orientation, which is wild, because that means that 31 percent of Americans have literally no gaydar and have managed to be completely oblivious about the presence of homosexuals in their lives.

Maxine Najile and Robert P. Jones, PRRI


Roughly 1.2 billion golf balls are manufactured every year. Due to, shall-we-say, occupational hazards, something like half of them end up lost in the environment. A 2010 estimate had 300 million disappearing in the U.S. alone. At issue is the fact that lots of the 32,000 golf courses on earth are next to an ocean. Pebble Beach, for instance, hosts 62,000 rounds of golf per year and with caddies reporting something like three to four balls lost per round. Well, doing some quick math, we’re pretty considerably over par here. Moroever, golf balls don’t do great under the sea, as a standard 46 gram golf ball loses as much as a third of its mass under such conditions. Anyway, the microplastics in the tuna melt ingested at the 19th hole are just part of that circle of life.

Alastair Bland, Hakai Magazine

Prop Comedy

You know how lots of people have those trendy letter boards now? The white-on-black adjustable messaging boards? At least on Instagram, or in millennial homes, or next to pictures of babies indicating the progress of their life thus far? They’re a big business! The company that sparked the trend, Letterfolk, sold over 75,000 boards as of late last year, each starting at $50. Naturally, they’ve inspired imitators, but as trendsetters they’ve also inspired a generation attempting to convey messages in a twee if straightforward fashion. Like when they reboot Love, Actually for Gen Z the confession of love that Rick Grimes makes to Kiera Knightly would 100 percent be on a letter board, the kind that used to be found outside of a church but now shows the specials menu at that trendy new joint off 38th.

Heather Schwedel, Slate

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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite

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