Numlock News: June 4, 2021 • Bobtail Squid, Trix, Toxic

By Walt Hickey

Have a wonderful weekend!


Etsy, the online crafting store for handmade items, will buy secondhand shop Depop for $1.625 billion. Part digital thrift shop, part place to unload new clothes to make room for newer, trendier ones, Depop is particularly popular among the younger consumers Etsy’s had trouble bringing in the door, with about 90 percent of Depop users under the age of 26, and the platform is believed to be the 10th most visited site among Gen Z consumers. Depop had 4 million active buyers, 2 million active sellers and $70 million in revenue in 2020.

Rebecca Heilweil, Recode

What Do We Do With A Dumping Sailor

The X-Press Pearl, a cargo ship carrying 1,486 containers, has been burning off the coast of Sri Lanka for the past two weeks. It’s a significant disaster because an attempt to haul the ship to deeper waters has failed, and some of the cargo is particularly gnarly. In addition to the 350 tons of fuel oil it had, the X-Press Pearl was also hauling 81 containers of dangerous goods, including 78 metric tons of small plastic pellets and 25 tons of nitric acid, with at least one of those containers beginning to leak. Sri Lanka has banned fishing along a 50-mile stretch of coastline where the acid has leaked into the water and plastic pellets have washed ashore.

Laurel Wamsley, NPR

Dan, I’m Not A Republic Serial Villain

NASA launched 128 baby bobtail squid to the International Space Station on Thursday along with 5,000 tardigrades, subjects in an experiment to determine how spaceflight affects the beneficial relationships that animals have with the microbes in their environment, like in the immune system or gut. The squid have an immune system similar enough to humans, making them good model organisms for the experiment, which hopes to eventually point to ways to keep astronauts healthy on long haul space flights. The tardigrades are going up for another experiment in the long-running series of “yo, but will this kill a tardigrade?” scientific research, with the creatures condemned to suffer the research equivalent of being one of the stars of Jackass.

BBC News


A study of Atlantic killifish in Newark Bay and three other highly contaminated harbors found that the species that lived in highly polluted areas had managed to evolve over a sufficiently quick period of time to adapt to the high levels of industrial pollutants in those ecosystems. An analysis of their genomes found they had evolved to be 8,000 times more resistant to the pollutants than killifish from uncontaminated sites, who would die in such waters. It’s the pace of evolution that’s so compelling, as the toxins were released in just the 1950s and 1960s. Other species, such as the Atlantic tomcod, have evolved a gene that renders them immune to PCBs. Anyway, all I’m saying is my takeaway from this is it’s genuinely only a matter of time before the swamps of New Jersey produce a genuine Koffing or Grimer.

Cal Flyn, The Wall Street Journal

Artificial Colors

In February 2016, confectioner Mars Inc. promised to remove artificial colors from its food offerings, but having seen a Skittle recently it’s pretty clear they did not manage to pull it off. Similar pledges from General Mills and Kellogg, both in 2015, have been incomplete. It turns out that finding a natural coloring that makes something look neon colors is pretty hard, and given that a 2015 Nielsen report found only 29 percent of North Americans thought no artificial colors was very important, it’s hardly pressing. Kellogg has made it to 90 percent of cereals using natural colors, General Mills has made it to 85 percent, and while Mars has removed all artificial colors from dinnertime foods, it’s no longer prioritizing a shift to natural candy. After pushing Trix into natural, albeit drabber colors in 2016, by 2017, General Mills reverted to the artificial stuff after declines in sales. Given the slim evidence that there’s anything particularly bad about artificial dyes, I don’t think it’s necessarily the end of the world if Mars hasn’t found a perfect natural neon yellow dye after doing something unspeakable to fireflies or whatnot.

Megan Poinski, Food Dive


A new study published in Nature of almost 400 lakes in the United States and Europe found that the dissolved oxygen in the surface waters of the lakes fell 5.5 percent over the past four decades, and the dissolved oxygen in the deep waters of the lakes declined a staggering 18.6 percent. The declining oxygen content — which can contribute to fish die-offs, algal blooms and unhealthy ecosystems — is possibly the result of warming temperatures and decreased water clarity due to human activity, like sewage and fertilizer. A quarter of the lakes found increasing oxygen in surface waters, but in a bad way, because an increase in blue green algae has caused a spike and sucked oxygen out of the deep waters.

Drew Costley, The Associated Press


The Internal Revenue Service has launched a major review of about 4,000 high net worth mainland U.S. residents and firms that shifted their operations to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico from 2012 to 2019. The IRS is most concerned about taxpayers who failed to report income after moving to Puerto Rico, or whose income was subject to U.S. taxes. An IRS report in 2020 calculated 1,924 applicants were granted tax benefits under the Exports Services Act, and over 2,300 individuals got tax exemptions on passive income under the Individual Investors Act over the period, and they’re the subject of the inquiry. The IRS is keenly interested if, indeed, these individuals and entities spent 183 days a year in Puerto Rico — if so, all good — because if the residency moves were more a “paperwork and PO Box” situation, they’re going to bring the pain down.

Donna Borak, Bloomberg

This past Sunday, I spoke to Bloomberg video game journalist Jason Schreier, author of the wonderful new book Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Games Industry. It’s an outstanding read about the crunch and abysmal conditions for workers in the video game industry. I dropped the paywall on that if you want to learn more about the book, which is available wherever such things can be found, and Jason can be found on Bloomberg and at his podcast Triple Click.

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