Numlock News: February 5, 2019

By Walt Hickey

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This Enormous Piggy Went To Market

It’s the year of the pig, but in Hong Kong the wild boars that inhabit the wilderness are increasingly making contact with city residents as development plows into their turf. The government doesn’t know how many wild boars there are in the city — which is always an awesome sentence to hear — but their interactions with their human neighbors are really on the rise, jumping to 738 boar-related public complaints in 2017 from 294 in 2013. The preservationist in me sides with the boars here, but let’s be honest: if roving packs of wild boars were seizing back those enormous cemeteries out by LaGuardia Airport, I would probably want the mayor to mull action over, you know?

Alice Fung, The Associated Press


The Center for Disease Control has said that according to a survey of 1,700 children, nearly 38 percent of them used more toothpaste than recommended. I checked, the spokesperson was not just two seven-year-olds standing on top of each other’s shoulders, nor was there a subsequent finding that we’re all getting McDonald’s tonight, so I feel like this is on-the-level. Young children who consume too much fluoride are susceptible to fluorosis, a disease that damages teeth developing under the gums. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends parents wait to introduce fluoride toothpaste until kids are two, while the two dental associations recommend early fluoride toothpaste.

Julia Jacobs, The New York Times


People’s associations with brands are wild when it really comes down to it. For instance, Folgers Coffee was first sold in San Francisco and Maxwell House was launched in Nashville in 1872 and 1892, respectively. Folgers hit the West early and Maxwell House hit the East, and a century later each still has disproportionate market share in the West and East. A brand’s market share in its city of origin is about 20 percent higher than in a city 2,500 miles away, one study found. When people move across the country, 60 percent of preferences move to the items in stock on the new coast while 40 percent remains consistent with the region of origin, and that 40 percent erodes very slowly. And this stacks up: one analysis of all this brand loyalty estimated Americans would save $44 billion per year if they chose store brand whenever possible. This explains why Westerners won’t shut up about In-N-Out, Southerners won’t relax about Chick-Fil-A and New England can’t stop talking about Dunkin’.

Ian Chipman, Knowable Magazine

Sick Beats

If you heard a song during an ad during the Super Bowl, just know that the artist was extremely well paid for that. Prices for ad songs ranged from $100,000 for short uses to $750,000 for long uses of iconic songs. So when you heard a solid chunk of the Bob Dylan version of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” know that Dylan basically was making maximum wage for 30 seconds there.

Andrew Hampp, Variety


Earth’s magnetic field causes compasses to point north and also is a critical defense against solar radiation and facilitates navigation for planes, ships and all sorts of things. The magnetic North Pole isn’t precisely at the actual North Pole, because this is magnetic fields we’re talking about so literally nothing can be easy or simple here. Moreover, the magnetic North Pole moves, and has moved 1,367 miles north and west since it was first located in Canada’s Nunavut territory in 1831. Magnetic north moves about 130 meters per day and will reach Siberia in 40 years. The pace of movement is accelerating, but don’t fret, as scientists have absolutely no idea why.

Brian K Sullivan, Bloomberg

Ride Hail

Approximately 70 percent of Uber and Lyft trips take place in nine cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. That’s odd, because those are also some of the most transit-rich cities in the U.S., and one Boston-area survey found 42 percent of rideshare riders would have taken transit had those services not been available.

Angie Schmitt, StreetsBlog USA

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The court system makes a killing on fees assessed for people attempting to access court records. The Pacer system charges 10 cents per page to access public court documents, which is several orders of magnitude higher than the actual cost of maintaining the system. The actual cost of retrieving that court document is actually something like $0.00000005. So given that markup, the federal court system is hauling in $145 million off the backs of researchers, litigants who have to pay for representation, and journalists at small or local news outlets. That amounts to 2 percent of the $7 billion federal judiciary budget over documents that are supposed to be public.

Adam Liptak, The New York Times

Correction: the original version of this edition stated that Americans would save $44 million by buying store brand. It has been corrected to $44 billion.

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