Numlock News: January 12, 2021 • Spacecraft, Whiskey, Disaster

By Walt Hickey


The year 2020 will go down as a rough one on a couple of different levels, and a new report from NOAA bolsters that rep as a disastrous year even further: per the agency, 2020 saw 22 separate events that caused $1 billion or more in damages in the United States, wiping out the record held by 2011 and 2017, when 16 billion-dollar disasters occurred. These events included seven hurricanes and 13 severe storms as well as tornadoes. The wildfires that swept the west and the drought were each considered a distinct event. Overall, those disasters caused $95 billion in damage.

Thomas Frank, E&E News


NASA has announced it will extend the Juno mission through 2025, giving the spacecraft a new lease to study the moons of Jupiter following a successful mission to the gas giant. Launched in 2011, Juno made it to Jupiter’s orbit in 2016, and has since completed over 30 orbits. After assessing the state of the craft, Juno will now see its mission extended to 76 orbits of Jupiter with a goal to do flybys of several of the planet’s more intriguing moons, which are each named for a mythological paramour of the god Jupiter. The mission is now slated to include a 1,000 kilometer flyby of Ganymede this summer, a 320 km flyby of Europa in 2022, and a 1,500 km flyby of Io in 2024. This guarantees that Juno — named after the goddess wife of Jupiter — will complete her mythologically-fated story, having sussed out a suspicious situation around her husband by methodically hunting down and blowing up the spot of all the women Jupiter was running around on her with.

Eric Berger, Ars Technica

Root Root Root

In the 2020 NFL regular season, home teams outscored away teams by a paltry 14 total points this season for an average of 0.05 points per game, the second-lowest scoring margin on record. This is part of a nearly total collapse of home-team advantage in the pandemic season, with home teams going 127-128-1 this year, the first time in the history of the NFL that road teams were better off than host teams. The clearest link is the lack of fans — the crowd noise being pumped into the stadiums and occasional reduced capacity is vastly inferior to tens of thousands of passionate, ravenous people in the bleachers screaming their heads off. Or, in the case of my New York Giants, tens of thousands of bored people who schlepped to Jersey wearing khakis and polo shirts.

Nora Princiotti, The Ringer


The city of Cheyenne, Wyoming was girding for a brutal tax year, anticipating a loss of some 25 percent of its municipal budget as the oil, gas and coal industry that fueled the city coffers dried up. This did not happen though: unexpectedly for the city leaders, Wyoming is benefiting from a wind boom, and from July to September the city saw a 20.5 percent increase in tax revenue compared to the same period of 2019, with September alone seeing receipts up 83 percent. That’s attributable to the Roundhouse Wind Project, a wind farm development west of the city. Multiple wind generation facilities are popping up around the state, which despite its typical reliance on fossil fuel extraction is one of the most promising high-potential states for wind energy in the entire country.

Jane C. Hu, High Country News


Irish whiskey makers have largely exported to Europe and the United States, while Asian whiskey markets have been better served by Japanese and Scottish distillers. The United States alone buys 42 percent of the total Irish whiskey produced, with Russia, the United Kingdom, and Walter Hickey In A Personal Capacity coming in behind them. With Europe and the U.S. not performing as well at this time, Ireland is looking to make inroads in Asia, where Irish whiskey makes up just 0.04 percent of whiskey consumption by volume. Japan and Scotland each have about a 5.9 percent market share in Asia.

Nana Shibata and CK Tan, Nikkei Asian Review


The precise height of redwoods is a significant scientific question for two major reasons: it’s important because enormous redwoods can store a ton of carbon as biomass, and also they can be 30 stories tall and that’s way too high to send someone up — let’s not be ridiculous here. Researchers using laser scanning have been able to properly size up 145 redwoods by blasting them with infrared laser pulses from all sides with the goal of getting a more precise reckoning of how much tree there really is. Turns out that coastal redwoods are about 30 percent larger by volume than previously predicted.

Katherine Kornei, Scientific American


While the pandemic has people focusing on indoor air quality and HVAC systems in shared public spaces like offices, lots of people who have been adamant for years about the benefits of good ventilation systems want to keep this conversation going well into the future. A 2000 study from Harvard University of 3,000 employees across 40 buildings found that office workers in moderately ventilated spaces were 53 percent more likely to take time off due to illness than those in highly ventilated spaces. The $54.3 billion fund to upgrade K-12 HVAC systems in the last stimulus bill could have huge implications when there are clear links between performance and CO2 levels. For an office building, the current standards recommend 20 cubic feet of outdoor air per minute per person, but if that was dialed up to 40 cfm per person, advocates say there could be material gains in public health.

Linda Poon, CityLab

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