Numlock News: July 20, 2021 • Antarctica, Shampoo, Toyota

By Walt Hickey


The average price paid by a consumer in June for a new car was $39,948, and the average price paid by a consumer that month for a one-year-old used car was $39,868, an $80 difference. Normally, that price gap is typically around $5,000 or more, but used cars are in a supply crunch. On one hand, it’s a rough market for buyers, on the other, this just seems more rational: it’s a little nuts how much value a vehicle — which is basically just a computer attached to a sophisticated machine — loses by simply driving it off the dealership lot. And while I’m not a mechanic, it’s odd that a single year of usage would instantly wipe out like a seventh of the value of a machine designed to last over a decade.

Nora Naughton, The Wall Street Journal


Congrats, turns out you rode out a recession last year! The National Bureau of Economic Research, which is in charge of discerning the beginnings and ends of U.S. business cycles, has upon analysis of the data found that the recession that began in February 2020 ended in April 2020 after two months. That’s the shortest on record after the 1980 recession which lasted six months. Though short, it was very bad: there were 22 million jobs cut, unemployment hit 14.8 percent, gross domestic product fell over 10 percent, and the effects have been long-lasting with seven million fewer jobs in the economy compared to before the pandemic.

Ben Casselman, The New York Times


The beauty industry produces 120 billion units of plastic packaging waste per year around the world. In the United States alone, every year 552 million plastic shampoo bottles are sold, and less than 10 percent of the plastic is recycled. In addition, the transportation of shampoo really amounts to the transportation of large amounts of water, with some stuff mixed into that water. That’s inefficient, and so, one solution is to just sell the shampoo in condensed bar form, rather than selling water and shampoo in a plastic bottle. This has benefits — one brand, Unwrapped Life, touts 8 percent of the carbon footprint of a liquid equivalent — and also is growing in popularity owing to the fact that the raw shampoo stuff is more cost-effective than the bottled liquid kind.

Julie Kendrick, HuffPost


There’s better internet in space than at research stations in Antarctica, which makes sense when you realize the International Space Station is only about 250 miles away and the South Pole of Earth is rather renowned for its remoteness. Still, during the summer peak there can be 1,000 people living at McMurdo Station, and their internet sucks. Scientists are pushing for a new fiber optic cable to connect McMurdo to New Zealand, and the National Science Foundation sponsored a workshop to game it out. The internet situation is particularly acute at the South Pole Atmospheric Research Observatory, which every day takes in terabytes of atmospheric and astrophysics data from a far-flung location in the interior of Antarctica. They only have a satellite signal for a few hours a day, and only 10 percent of the data makes it home every day: the rest is literally airlifted on hard drives once per year, making it back to the States a month later, a subzero version of the Sneakernet in action.

Chelsea Harvey, E&E News


Amid growing discontent with the Olympic Games at home, automaker Toyota has yanked its ads from the Olympics in Japan, and its CEO will skip the opening ceremonies. Japanese companies spent over $3 billion sponsoring the Olympics, which are ridiculously unpopular due to the ongoing pandemic: on Monday, the Asahi newspaper published the latest poll where 68 percent of Japanese respondents said they doubted the games’ organizers could control coronavirus infections and 55 percent said they opposed the games going forward as currently planned.

Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter

Concrete Battery

Concrete is the most consumed material in the world after water, and it can hold a charge. A new study in Buildings reported that a prototype concrete battery secured a 900 percent increase over previous attempts. Granted, this isn’t a lot of electricity right now: 200 square meters of the new design, which entails embedded carbon fiber mesh coated in nickel or iron, can only store about 8 percent of the daily electricity consumption of an average American home.

Sophie Bushwick, Scientific American

Natural Colors

People like natural ingredients in their food, but they also really like cool colors in their food too, and honestly finding materials that satisfy both is rather difficult. The market for natural colors in foods was projected to grow 8.4 percent annually from 2019 to 2027, when it’s projected to hit $3.2 billion. Artificial colors have stability that natural colors lack, with the acidity level of different preparations having a significant impact on vibrancy up and down the spectrum of current natural food coloring. One promising source of color has been spirulina algae, which is blue-green, halal and kosher, and has been growing in popularity as demand for natural colors increase.

Samantha Oller, Food Dive

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