Numlock News: July 10, 2020 • Plywood, Lefties, Deboning

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!


Prices for lumber and plywood are popping thanks to a boom time in improvised expanded outdoor seating in restaurants, as well as a surge in do-it-yourself projects. On July 8, the spot price per thousand board feet of lumber was $469.40, up from the doldrums seen in early April when the same amount of lumber was going for a low of $264.10 on April 2. That 80 percent increase is above the pre-pandemic high of $463.00, a price hit during a hot home-building market. With restaurants building outdoor decks on the fly around the world, orders are up 40 percent at a Pittsburgh company that makes the chemicals to treat wood for decks.

Ryan Dezember, The Wall Street Journal


Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed the sovereignty of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, a tribe in Oklahoma. A large portion of eastern Oklahoma — that includes Tulsa — remains an Indian Reservation for the purposes of criminal law, per the terms of Congress’ 1866 treaty obligations. The case involved a tribal citizen convicted in Oklahoma state courts who argued that they lacked the authority to try him for a crime he committed on a reservation. The 5-4 ruling in his favor means he should have been tried in federal court, as the state of Oklahoma lacked jurisdiction. The federal government promised the Muscogee (Creek) Nation a reservation in perpetuity, and while it has shrunk, Congress never actually disestablished it. Yesterday that reality was affirmed.

Kolby KickingWoman, Indian Country Today


New York’s Regional Plan Association put forward a master plan for 425 miles of interconnected bike lanes in New York, a future for higher-density transit by removing cars from some thoroughfares. As it stands now, just 480 miles out of the 1,250 miles of bike lanes in New York are protected from automobiles. This is incredibly dangerous: a study found an average 11.5 disruptions per mile, meaning that roughly every other block some idiot is endangering the occupants of a bike lane by driving a car or truck into it. Cycling is on the rise in the city, with some 1.6 million New Yorkers riding bikes in 2019.

Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times



People have been removing the bones from chickens as long as there have been people and chickens, and that’s one of those tasks that it’s downright difficult to get a robot to do right. Every week, 39 million chickens are sliced up in Tyson’s plants alone. Tyson, along with lots of others in the industry, want to develop an automated deboning system, and one reason is the pandemic. In meat processing — given the necessary role of humans in getting the right cut — there are an average 3.2 employees per 1,000 square feet of manufacturing space. That’s one of the highest in the industrial sector otherwise transformed by automation: in consumer electronics the density is 2.33 employees per thousand square feet, in food it’s 1.76, in chemicals it’s 1.15, and in textiles it’s down to 0.64 employees per thousand feet. The precision of the cuts are seriously consequential and the work requires significant dexterity: meat that a worker carves from a loin sells for $5 per pound wholesale, while the meat still on the bone goes for 19 cents a pound.

Jacob Bunge and Jesse Newman, The Wall Street Journal

Sinister Forces at Work

Brain research studies tend to only recruit people who are right-handed to participate in them, which can be really frustrating for left-handed folks who want to contribute to neuroscience. This is because the brains of left-handed folks can mirror those of right-handed people and it’s easier from the researchers’ point of view to just not have to deal with that. Though about 10 percent of people walk the left-hand path, a study found that across 1,000 papers published in 2017, just 3.2 percent of the 30,000 research subjects in brain imaging research were not right-handed.

Shayla Love, Vice


Cheap wire snares and steel traps made out of old car parts are scattered across the Murchison Falls National Park forests of northwestern Uganda, traps powerful enough to ensnare giraffes or lions indiscriminately. The Uganda Wildlife Authority counted 367 poaching incidents from February to May, more than double the number in the same span of time in 2019, and it’s thought that poachers are capitalizing on the pandemic, with the throngs of tourists that would normally make poachers less likely to hunt so brazenly now missing. There are just 300 lions and 2,000 giraffes remaining in Uganda, so any loss pushes the population closer to jeopardy.

Dina Fine Maron, National Geographic


The World Meteorological Organization estimates a 20 percent chance that global temperatures will rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than the pre-industrial level in one year between 2020 and 2024. That’s the level that nations agreed in the Paris accord to cap warming, and in the event we hit it by 2024, it would be a devastating signal that efforts are not working. It’s entirely possible to hit the target set in Paris — keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius and not much higher than 1.5 degrees Celsius — before 2100. Still, the WMO also estimates that for at least a single month from 2020 to 2024, there’s a 70 percent chance the 1.5 degrees Celsius mark will be hit. In general, average annual temperatures are projected to be 0.91 to 1.59 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial averages.

Nadine Achoui-Lesage and Frank Jordans, The Associated Press

Last Sunday, I spoke to Akshat Rathi who wrote “Norway’s $2.6 Billion Green Bet Could Help the Whole Planet” for Bloomberg Green. We spoke about carbon pricing and his forthcoming book highlighting the young activists driving the climate conversation. Rathi can be found on Twitter,at Bloomberg Green, and United We Are Unstoppable is available for preorder now, you should check it out.

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