Numlock News: November 7, 2019 • Coffee, Influencers, Maternity Clothes

By Walt Hickey

Maternity

Working women are at a loss when it comes to tracking down maternity clothes that are stylish or office-appropriate, and it’s not easy. This is in part due to the decline in the specialty maternity market — revenue for Destination Maternity, which is also the corporate parent of Motherhood Maternity and A Pea in the Pod, fell to $383.8 million last year from $512 million as recently as 2014 — but also because traditional stores that cater to working women don’t produce clothes for pregnant consumers. As a result, there are all sorts of cheap maternity garments, but very little for professionals: 47.5 percent of new maternity garments last quarter cost less than $25, 40 percent cost $25 to $50, and just 1.2 percent cost more than $100, meaning that for those trying to get high-end maternity wear, it’s simply not in existence.

Sarah Halzack, Bloomberg

Spon

The FTC is taking a serious look at Instagram, and yesterday released guidance on when influencers on the site will be required to disclose advertisements. Basically, the consumer protection agency advises users who are cashing fat checks to place a disclosure at the very front of content that’s been paid for, and to periodically disclose that a livestream is an advertisement. In 2020, Instagram’s influencer ad market is expected to hit more than $2.5 billion.

Paolo Zialcita, NPR

Biometric

Over the past 10 years, the U.S. military invested $345 million in biometric databases, the current result of which is ABIS, the Automated Biometric Information System. It’s a database of 7.4 million identities linked to facial images, DNA data, fingerprints and other biometric data collected from allied soldiers, suspected terrorists and non-U.S. citizens. Individuals of interest may find themselves on the BEWL (Biometrically Enabled Watch List) which will allow them to be identified over surveillance tech on borders, bases and battlefields. In the first half of 2019, 4,467 people on the BEWL were identified, and 2,728 of them were in “theater” (areas where American troops are commanded). This military-controlled database on incontrovertible biological information — built by a contractor — has worried privacy advocates because it’s literally the thing they have been the most concerned about since the invention of photography.

Dave Gershgorn, OneZero

Coffee

Coffee is at unique risk, as most beans are derived from just one species of plant, Coffee arabica. It’s the most cultivated variety by a long shot, and that carries some hazards. The plant is susceptible to fungi and beetles, it struggles with the same kind of weather fluctuations, like droughts and heavy rains, that the global climate is poised to double down on, and due to a lack of pollinators scientists are worried that by 2050 half the land currently used to cultivate coffee will be unable to do so. There are roughly 125 other non-domesticated species of coffee, and potentially even more to be discovered, but 10 percent may disappear within the decade due to deforestation and changes in climate, and 70 percent are at risk of extinction.

Lina Zeldovich, JSTOR Daily

Layovers

A new paper used the deregulation of airlines in 1978 to determine the impact that reductions and increases in air service had when it came to population, income and the economy. It found that a 50 percent increase in annual air traffic is linked to a 1.6 percent increase in annual population growth, a 1.7 percent increase in income growth annually and a 2.7 percent increase in employment growth. Overall a 50 percent increase in an average city’s air traffic growth was linked to a 20-year period GDP growth of $523.3 million in 1978 dollars or $2 billion today. La Guardia, despite its best efforts, is apparently worth it.

Richard Florida, CityLab

Progress

In scientific research, it’s been said that “science advances one funeral at a time.” Essentially, for fields to progress established figures with substantial power and stubborn beliefs must shuffle off the mortal coil and let the next generation try to advance their theories in their absence. A new study bears this out: economists analyzed the aftermath of the deaths of 452 scientists who passed while still active from 1975 to 2003, and found that in the first two years following their demise publications increased modestly, but in the following years papers by newcomers grew by 8.6 percent annually on average. The trade-off is that papers from collaborators dipped 20 percent per year, but within five years following turnover the deficit was made up.

Veronique Greenwood, Undark

Batteries

The good news is that over 1 million electric vehicles were sold worldwide in 2017, but the bad news is that a new study estimated those cars alone will, in the end, result in 250,000 tons of scrapped battery packs. Were those 250,000 tons just junked in a landfill, there’s a chance they’d explode, which as far as events in a landfill go is not awesome. But more to the point, they can be reused even after they’re no longer useful for vehicular operation: used batteries unsuitable for the road still hold up to 80 percent of their power that they did when brand new. That’s one reason Toyota, for instance, is pairing old electric vehicle batteries with solar panels to power 7-Eleven stores in Japan, which to my knowledge don’t hit a land-speed of 60 miles per hour.

Justine Calma, The Verge

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