Numlock News: July 31, 2018

By Walt Hickey

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Studies show that even a little bit of dehydration can cause some serious brain fog. One study found that subjects who were about 1 percent dehydrated saw an estimated 12 percent more total errors on a card game that measured cognitive flexibility. Hiking at a moderate intensity for an hour gets you 1.5 percent to 2 percent dehydration. I drank like two glasses of water while writing these three sentences because I got paranoid about being slightly dehydrated and I’m sorry but also you’re welcome if you did the same thing.

Allison Aubrey, NPR


The market for power banks — those battery packs you can buy to supplement your mobile phone’s insufficient battery — is projected to reach $25 billion by 2025. Lithium ion batteries are seeing efficiency gains, but the returns are diminishing, and the power demands of high tech products are outpacing the supply of power batteries can offer. To get technical, whoever figures out the next great leap in power storage is going to be a gazillionaire.

Amit Katwala, Wired

Public Domain Movies

Netflix bought “Mowgli,” a Warner Bros. movie helmed by Andy Serkis that retells for the umpteenth time the story of Ruyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.” The sale essentially ends a period where Warner Bros. was rolling the dice on movies based on works that are in the public domain. Dealing with estates and (god forbid) living writers is a pain for studios and other companies like Disney built an empire on animating the public domain. But after crushing it with the Robert Downey Jr. version of “Sherlock Holmes,” Warner Bros. attempts to mine the rich history of “everything ever written before 1923” fell flat, including “King Arthur,” “Pan,” “Jack the Giant Slayer,” and “The Legend of Tarzan,” only the latter of which recouped its $180 million production cost.

Brent Lang, Variety


Ant Financial, a Chinese financial services group founded by Alibaba’s Jack Ma, is big enough that Chinese authorities are putting new limits on what the company can do. It’s not simply that it’s too large in any one category, it’s that Ant Financial is a juggernaut in every category, and that’s got regulators fretting. With $8.8 trillion in annual payment transaction volume, it’s bigger than Mastercard ($5.2 trillion), with 620 million online payment active users it’s bigger than PayPal (244 million), with a $219 billion in its largest money market fund it’s bigger than JPMorgan’s $134 billion U.S. Government fund and it’s got more credit scores than FICO.

Stella Yifan Xie, The Wall Street Journal

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Americans who drink prefer beer, according to an annual Gallup poll, which is great news because that leaves more whiskey for me. In 2018, 42 percent of drinking respondents prefer beer, 34 percent prefer wine and the top 19 percent of Americans prefer liquor. This is a bit of a comeback for suds, as in 2013 only 36 percent of Americans favored it. Beer is most popular among people aged 30 to 49 (where 47 percent prefer it), which I suppose makes sense because from 2001 to 2010 it was most popular among people aged 18 to 29, when 49 percent preferred it.


Capital Gains

The Trump administration is reportedly considering a tax tweak that would index the capital gains tax to inflation. Instead of paying tax on the difference between the sale price and the purchase price of a financial asset, a person would instead pay tax on the (smaller) difference between the sale price and the inflation-adjusted purchase price of the financial asset. An analysis by the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business said that indexing capital gains to inflation would cut revenues by $102 billion over the course of a decade, 86 percent of that windfall going to the top 1 percent.

Alan Rappeport and Jim Tankersley, The New York Times


In the early 1980s, the average Chinese person ate roughly 30 pounds of meat per year. Today — with a population 380 million people higher — that’s risen to nearly 140 pounds of meat per person, which is about 28 percent of Earth’s meat. The national appetite is causing a problem for the nation’s commitment to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions, which has lately been a pretty central component of long-term policy planning, as the livestock industry accounts for 14.5 percent of total carbon emissions, a figure poised to rise.

Marcello Rossi, Undark

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