Numlock News: June 11, 2019 • Mosquitos, Video Games, Self Driving Cars

By Walt Hickey

Alkaline Water

Following the realization that we’re all a bunch of rubes that will buy anything, companies are flooding into the alkaline water business, a new spin on the classic and lucrative “water, but with a slight flavor you can’t quite place” sector. The category of basic water — I mean that in both the chemical and judgmental senses of the word basic — grew 36 percent in the year ending April to $270 million in the U.S. That means basic water is no longer just a small drop in the larger $17 billion bucket that is U.S. bottled water.

Leslie Patton and Craig Giammona, Bloomberg

A Supposedly Bad Thing They Might Do Again

Carnival, the cruise line, will pay a $20 million penalty for environmental violations that include dumping plastic waste into the ocean. That’s on top of the $40 million its Princess Cruise Lines subsidiary already paid for pollution violations. Those wrist slaps may seem toothless, but Carnival also agreed to pay for 15 annual audits, in addition to the dozens of audits the cruise line is already obligated to complete, and a restructuring of its compliance structure. If it fails those terms, its on the hook for a fine of up to $10 million per day.

Merrit Kennedy and Greg Allen, NPR

Aedes

Climate change gets a bad rap in the press, but it’s important to concede that there will also be some winners. I’m specifically referring to the biggest winner of global heating — mosquitoes. Aedes mosquitoes are responsible for 100 million cases of dengue infections every year that cause symptoms like fever, debilitating joint pain and internal bleeding. About 10,000 people die of it. Under a moderate warming scenario, 2.25 billion more people could be at risk for dengue by 2080 than were in 2015 thanks to the brand-new habitats the mosquitoes will be able to occupy! Basically, anywhere south of New Jersey will be fair game for dengue-bearing mosquitoes according to the study published in Nature Microbiology.

Kendra Pierre-Louis and Nadja Popvich, The New York Times

Self-Driving

Forced to choose between driving five hours or taking a flight, 66.3 percent of American respondents would just drive. When you raise that to a 7-hour drive, the math changes, and only 38.1 percent of respondents would opt to drive over flying. At 11 hours, it’s just the driving die-hards who prefer to go by road, with 15.7 percent opting to drive over braving LaGuardia. But that math changes if you don’t actually have to drive, such as if a self-driving car would do it for you. In those situations, a further 16.7 percent of people would opt to take the self-driving car on both the 7-hour and the 11-hour drives rather than fly. With one-sixth of the market eyeing the automated open road over the departures terminal, that should give pause to airlines who may not have anticipated self-driving cars would come for them.

Scott Winter and Stephen Rice, CityLab

Cord Swappers

A new survey found that 53 percent of people born between 1983 and 1996 pay for a subscription gaming service — like World of Warcraft, Xbox Live or any other subscription-based game — while 51 percent pay for a television subscription. Based on the 2,000 consumers surveyed, we’re probably still in margin-of-error territory, but that marks the first time in the 13 years Deloitte’s been doing the digital media trends survey that game subscriptions eclipsed television among the group.

Hilary Russ, Reuters

Animation

A new study from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found serious gender imbalances among both creators and characters in animated films. Of the 120 animated features released from 2007 to 2018, only 17 percent had a female lead or co-lead. While television fared a bit better, among the 100 top animated series on broadcast and cable only 39 percent of the credited cast were women or girls. This may not reflect the gender balance of society of a whole, but it does seem to reflect the people who get to make animated movies and television: only five of 197 animated film directors were women, and on television, women held 17 percent of “created by” or “developed by” credits.

Stacy L. Smith, Marc Choueiti, Katherine Pieper and Hannah Clark, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative

Copy

There are 562 million items available on Amazon, 2.1 million sellers on Etsy, and 279 million buyers on Alibaba, and all the crap they’re hawking needs a product description. For the billions of things the internet sells — stuff, content, apparel — someone’s got to write a concise and appealing description of those items, and we can’t just do that with computers yet. For $35,000 per year, freelance copywriters can file up to 50 to 60 product descriptions per day.

Luke Winkie, Vox

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