Numlock News: May 6, 2021 • Uncontrolled Rockets, Earthquakes, Butts

By Walt Hickey

Rocket

I will begin by assuring you that you will probably not be hit with a Long March 5B rocket tumbling out of orbit. But! The 98 foot, 21 metric ton chunk of space junk is definitely uncontrolled and falling out of a rapidly-decaying orbit, and at some point between May 7 and May 9 will surrender to the Newtonian inevitability that now besets it and shall, one way or another, return to the surly bonds of earth. While most launches don’t actually send the first rocket stage into orbit, preferring to assiduously ensure a graceful landing to a predictable spit of unpopulated ocean, that is not what went down on April 28 when this particular rocket launched. The orbital inclination is 41.5º, its orbital speed is over 28,000 k/h, and miscalculating the reentry by a half hour means it’ll land 10,000 kilometers away, so good luck to everyone.

Jeffrey Kluger, Time

Theft

A new analysis of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division records from 2005 to 2020 found that the agency only actually fined repeat wage theft offenders about a fourth of the time, regularly allowed those fined to avoid repaying the employees they grifted, and let 16,000 employers get away with not paying $20.3 million in back wages since 2005. For many companies, given the lax enforcement and low probability of legal blowback, it makes sense to bilk their workers and violate the law because the chances they’ll be forced to actually make things right is sufficiently low. Some estimates put wage theft at $15 billion per year.

Alexia Fernández Campbell and Joe Yerardi, The Center for Public Integrity

Fortnite

According to documents revealed in the course of their lawsuit against Apple, Epic Games made over $9 billion in 2018 and 2019 in revenue from Fortnite and derived $5.5 billion in profit over the period. The company went on to make $5.1 billion in revenue in 2020. Fortnite is the main gem in Epic’s crown, but far from the only one, with the company bringing in $108 million over 2018 and 2019 from other games like Rocket League and another $221 million made by licensing Epic’s game engine out to other game makers.

Mitchell Clark, The Verge

Shake Alert

As of Tuesday morning, all cell phone users in California, Oregon and Washington are enrolled in a program that will alert them as soon as a sufficiently large earthquake has been detected, a chance for the speed of signals to exceed the seed of the earthquake. The system, ShakeAlert, can provide people up to 10 seconds of lead time to prepare for hits from magnitude 5 and above earthquakes, and will warn of aftershocks as well. A 2019 test of the system found the earthquake alerts hit phones within an average of 2.1 seconds.

Jaclyn Diaz and Vanessa Romo, NPR

Coral

When Hurricane Iris struck Belize in 2001 it shattered the reef offshore, with coral structure falling to less than 6 percent of the national park area, down from somewhere between 15 and 28 percent prior to the storm. Several years later, the government authorized a proposal to restore the reef, reseeding it with transplanted coral in 2010. The secret was planting smaller pieces, which actually grew faster than the larger pieces. Since then 85,000 corals have been planted in Laughing Bird Caye National Park, with 89 percent surviving 14 years, and coral cover rising from 6 to 50 percent from 2010 to 2017.

Veronika Perkova, BBC

Buns

According to newly released data about 2020, butt implants surged during the pandemic, rising 22 percent. Though they’re a niche procedure — 1,179 carried out over the course of the year, according to the report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons — they saw the biggest boost among the varietals of nips and tucks monitored by the group, which mostly saw declines in popular procedures due to office closures. Another procedure that saw a boost — 8 percent — was breast implant removals; the implants have a finite life and need to eventually be removed and replaced.

Aja Mangum and Mark Glassman, Bloomberg

Berries

Last year Driscoll’s, which grows fresh berries, had to send $20 million worth of unwanted fresh berries to be frozen or juiced for prices as low as 10 cents on the dollar. As a result, they cut production on strawberries — which take a year of planning — by 5 percent, a bad call given that two months later berry sales exploded 8 percent by volume compared to the previous year. Now, orders are back up as restaurants see a surge in interest, and wholesale prices have hit $18 for an 8 pound flat, double the level a year ago. Now, Driscoll’s is bullish on strawberries, telling its independent growers to plant as much as 8 percent more in California.

Jesse Newman, The Wall Street Journal

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