Numlock News: June 11, 2021 • Black Paint, Earthquakes, Shocks

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!

I see a red door and I want it

The latest niche trend in real estate is to paint homes completely pitch black, because this is what happens when kids raised on My Chemical Romance get access to a home equity loan. Behr Paint Company reports that sales of black interior and exterior paint increased 40 percent between 2019 and 2020, and searches on Pinterest — if anything a modern catalog of domestic taste — tripled for black houses since 2017. One issue some may not necessarily have foreseen is that dark surfaces on a house can be 20 percent more heat absorbent that lighter surfaces, so there’s a solid contingent of people about to realize they have inadvertently converted their colonial into a solar-powered Dutch oven.

Yelena Moroz Alpert, The Wall Street Journal


An Air Force study sought to find out what all of us thought of doing but never actually attempted in college: could you just, like, tase yourself during an all-nighter and would it work out well for you? The answer it turns out is still, “no, don’t do all-nighters,” but also, “I mean, if you do, we did look into it, and shocks may not hurt!” The researchers looked at 40 active-duty soldiers who were staying awake for 34 hours, over which they did cognitive tests and said how they felt. Half used a device that applies an electrical charge to the vagus nerve, while others used a sham device that did nothing. To be clear, all of them did worse on the cognitive test the longer they were up, but those who used the device did less bad than those who didn’t: performance in the placebo group was down 15 percent, performance in the experimental group was down 5 percent.

Maddie Bender, Scientific American

Muslim Characters

A new study of the 200 top-grossing films produced by the United States, U.K., Australia and New Zealand from 2017 to 2019 found that just 1.6 percent of the 8,965 speaking characters in those films were Muslim. Given that 24 percent of the global population is Muslim, that’s a rather steep under-representation; further, a deeper look at the characters determined that only one of the Muslim characters was portrayed in the United States. In aggregate, the portrayals of the characters were one-dimensional: of 41 primary and secondary Muslim characters, 58.5 percent were immigrants or refugees, 87.8 percent spoke English with an accent, if at all, 39 percent were perpetrators of violence, 19 percent were dead by the end of the film, and only eight of the characters were children.

Al-Baab Khan, Katherine Pieper, Stacy L. Smith, Marc Choueiti, Kevin Yao and Artur Tofan, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative



A new study finds that Mexico’s dive tourism industry — vastly mom-and-pop shops, with few large players and scattered across the country’s enormous coastline — is likely worth between $455 million and $725 million annually. This is a particularly significant number because of its political implications: that’s on par with the revenue that Mexico generates from its fishing industry, and gives ammunition to advocates who want to expand marine conservation and hem in the fishing business. The researchers found 91 percent of the dive operations were family-run small businesses dealing with an average of 74 tourists a week, with the remaining 9 percent being large businesses catering to an average of 1,600 tourist per week.

Ilima Loomis, Hakai Magazine


A team of researchers in Indonesia implemented a large randomized controlled trial to determine a possible way to reduce the risks posed by Dengue fever, which infects 390 million people every year, and is considered by the World Health Organization to be one of the most significant threats to global public health. Smaller trials have determined that bacteria called Wolbachia, when they infect mosquitoes like Aedes aegypti, prevent the bugs from getting dengue. The researchers released Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes in some areas and found that the incidence of dengue fell by 77 percent, a massive number that could reshape the way humanity fights mosquitoes. Since the study, the researchers have already begun to scale up in the surrounding region, and hope to infect enough mosquitoes to protect 4 million people by 2022 year-end.

Ed Yong, The Atlantic


Congress passed the $16 billion Save Our Stages act six months ago, but a botched rollout by the Small Business Administration has deprived the overwhelming majority of the 14,020 venues that applied for relief of any relief whatsoever. As of last week, the SBA had approved a pathetic 50 venues for aid, a value that rose over the past week to 90 venues. Nearly 5,000 venues submitted Priority 1 relief applications, and SBA was supposed to process all of them by Wednesday; again, they have processed 90, disbursing only $127.9 million. While 500 reviewers were hired by SBA, given the 45 days since the portal opened for applications, if each reviewer handled just one application per day, 17,000 would have been processed.

Jem Aswad, Variety


According to an analysis of data from Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico, in the shale-producing regions, there were 938 earthquakes registering at least a 2 on the Richter scale last year, quadruple the number detected in 2017. Such tremors are linked to shale production, which entails wastewater being pumped underground. In 2019, 12 billion barrels of wastewater were disposed of underground, which can make the seismic conditions a little more unstable. The figure has been rising steadily, and year to date there have already been 570 such earthquakes in the southwest, which is on pace for a record.

David Wethe, Bloomberg

This past week in the Sunday edition I spoke to Emily Atkin, who writes the delightful HEATED newsletter. We spoke about the day a few weeks ago when three colossal oil majors suffered genuine losses either among shareholders or at the courts. She had a great post that week called “A good day for life on Earth,” and we got to talk about her read on the developments. Emily can be found at her newsletter, HEATED, and on Twitter.

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