Numlock News: February 6, 2020 • Blades, Rogues, Harley Quinn

By Walt Hickey

Blades

Blades of wind turbines cannot yet be recycled, but after years of service have to be removed or replaced to withstand the daily gusts safely. As a result, the blades end up in landfills. Europe will have about 3,800 blades removed annually through at least 2022, and in the U.S. 8,000 will be removed each of the next four years. While about 85 percent of turbine components like steel, copper wire, and other parts can be reused or recycled, the blades are fiberglass and made specifically to be immensely sturdy, thus difficult to break down into other stuff. A startup, Global Fiberglass Solutions, has developed a method to convert blades into the kind of fiber boards in flooring and walls, and can currently handle about 6,000 to 7,000 blades per year. Until they get it right, the blades will go into landfills.

Chris Martin, Bloomberg

Mattresses

Casper, a company that serves as a middleman between mattress manufacturers and people who would like a box full of mattresses on their front porch, has slashed the valuation of their IPO as it heads toward the beginning of trading today. Once feted at a valuation of $1.1 billion, following a troubling roadshow and an overall rough market for public offerings of unprofitable companies, the company signaled its price range would be $12 to $13 per share, roughly a $476 million valuation. In the first nine months of 2019, Capser lost $67.4 million despite revenues of $312.3 million.

Corrie Driebusch and Allison Prang, The Wall Street Journal

This wouldn’t come as a huge surprise if you’re a paid subscriber, as this week’s interview with New York Post reporter Josh Kosman was all about the issues Casper is seeing with its IPO, free to read today.

Rogue Waves

Throughout history, sailors have returned to shore with terrifying stories of colossal waves with enormous heights that very nearly capsized their vessels. Those ashore didn’t believe them, because that’s crazy talk. In 1995, a 26-meter wave struck an oil platform in the North Sea and was caught on film, so all of a sudden a whole bunch of people started listening to the sailors with a new degree of seriousness. Researchers now believe that rogue waves likely were responsible for destroying 22 supercarriers and claiming 500 lives in the second half of the 20th century, and research to find out what they are and, most importantly, how to detect them and warn those at risk has picked up considerably.

Charlie Wood, Quanta Magazine

Birds of Prey

A DC Comics film with the full title Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) will hit cinemas this weekend, and tells the story of the once-Joker adjacent Harley Quinn as she teams up with a number of other costumed heroes and villains to take down a Gotham City crime boss. The film is projected to make $50 million to $55 million across 4,200 cinemas, and as long as the word of mouth stays good could run for weeks across a typically barren portion of the movie calendar. This movie marks a turning point for the breakout character by giving Quinn her own film entirely and moving the character out of the shadow of the Joker, who presumably will spend this film’s opening weekend lying low, keeping a quiet profile, and only going outside to accept the Academy Award for Best Actor live on international television at the 92nd Oscars on ABC.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety

Heath Care

Roughly 16,600 people are stuck in the middle of a dispute between Dignity Health, a company with 41 hospitals in the American southwest, and Cigna, one of the largest insurance companies in the country. As of 2018, Cigna had an operating income of $3.6 billion and revenue of $49 billion, and Dignity Health had an income of $529 million on $14.2 billion in revenue. (For my international readers, it’s traditional for U.S. hospitals and insurers to extract enormous profits from sick people.) Now, Cigna has sent letters to the people it insures informing them their care will no longer be covered in Dignity’s facilities because the pair of companies has failed to come to an agreement, with Dignity demanding higher prices and Cigna content to wait them out. These kinds of disagreements between insurers and hospitals are fairly common, mostly in the region bounded between the Rio Grand, 49th parallel, and Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Brian Krans, The Los Angeles Times

Ads

Google is reportedly weighing divesting from its enormous third-party advertising business to avoid anti-trust scrutiny. That business had $21.5 billion in sales last year, which is still 40 percent higher than the sales of WPP Plc, the largest advertising agency on the planet. But it’s still a fraction of Google’s ad business, 73 percent of which comes from advertisements that appear in Google searches. Google owns the largest ad server, the largest demand-side platform and the largest sell-side platform, whereas in other industries those would be competing entities. With Google and Facebook collectively overseeing $295 billion worldwide in advertising, the thinking goes that perhaps shaking loose its $21.5 billion third-party ad business could throw the feds off the scent.

Alex Webb, Bloomberg

Business School

Applications to MBA programs in the U.S. were down 9.1 percent over the course of the 2019-20 academic year, a resounding success for the American people and a cause for enormous celebration. International applications fell by 13.7 percent, for reasons that I’m sure are a mystery, and possibly linked to the 22 percent drop in student F-1 visas from 2016 to 2018. I wonder what’s happening there, it’s a complete mystery. Anyway, MBA programs are beginning to panic, but they’ve found a solution: pretending that business school is science, technology, engineering or mathematics. F-1 students in a STEM track program can stay in the U.S. for three years after graduating, while F-1 students in a non-STEM program like business have to leave after one year. By manipulating governments into pretending that they’re science, business schools hope to get more international applicants to plug their falling enrollments. Quite the business school solution.

Michelle Cheng, Quartz

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