Numlock News: October 3, 2018

By Walt Hickey

Money To Avert An Agricultural Scourge

When entomologists call a bug, “the weirdest, most pernicious insect I’ve ever seen,” in print, you have my attention: billions of dollars of crops are at risk to the Lanternfly, a mothlike bug who’s infestation has prompted a 4.5 million acre quarantine in Pennsylvania. This thing makes the marmorated stink bug look like a mere locust, and Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture speculates the bug could cause $18 billion in damage in that state alone. It’s since spread to New York and Virginia and New Jersey. Clearly, the federal government is responding to this threat with its full attention, namely by committing $17.5 million (with an “m”) to try to stop the spread.

Andrew Zaleski, Bloomberg Businessweek


In 2015, kickoffs in Ivy League games accounted for 21 percent of player concussions even though they accounted for only 6 percent of plays. Kickoffs — which are stupid and bad — involve players starting at longer distances, allowing for higher speeds and collisions after full sprints. In 2016, the Ivy League tweaked kickoff rules so that the kicking team kicked from the 40-yard line rather than the 35-yard line, and made it so touchbacks started from the 20 rather than the 25. Following that tweak, a new study found that the head injury rate fell from 11 concussions per 1,000 kickoff plays to two concussions per 1,000 plays.

Sarah Mervosh, The New York Times


The internet has 1.8 billion web pages, only 644 million of which are actually active. The average web page lasts 100 days, but the web nonetheless doubles in size every two to five years. Dedicated to preserving this digital sandcastle is the Internet Archive, which now has 40 petabytes — that’s 40 million gigabytes — of data, 63 percent of which is just backups of the internet, to the tune of 388 billion web pages. It’s like the Library of Alexandria, if the Library of Alexandria was full of bodybuilding forum threads and sexually explicit material, which knowing what I know about Ancient Greece it almost definitely was.

Zachary Crockett, The Hustle


The largest producer of eggs in the United States said that the number of chicks hatched is up 11 percent since the beginning of the year. I don’t want to get too into the weeds of a chicken-and-egg debate here, but prices are poised to decline with the increase in supply. That’s good news for people who like eggs, and also for hooligan teens hoping to sow some serious mayhem on Gate Night while sticking to a budget.

Lydia Mulvany, Bloomberg

Star Wars Haters

For those of you not attuned to annoying internet crap, following Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Star Wars fan community was roiled with controversy over a bunch of internet boys who were very unhappy over what they perceived as disrespect to the franchise because they added several women and minorities to it. New research demonstrates that much of that internet anger was Jyn’d up by maliciously motivated actors: of the merely 21.9 percent trashing the film, a full 50.9 percent of accounts were politically motivated or bots. As we all know, in Star Wars virulent and combative bots mostly come from CIS factories on Geonosis, Charros IV, Colla IV and now evidently Russia.

Graeme McMillan, The Hollywood Reporter

Go For Two You Cowards

This year 11.3 percent of NFL touchdowns were followed by a two-point conversion attempt rather than an extra point, up from 3.2 percent in 2006. They’re also getting better at it: two-point conversion attempts were successful 63.2 percent this year so far, while kickers have been successful 95.3 percent of the time with extra point tries. Mathematically, this makes the two-point conversion a better bet than ever, as they only need to succeed more than 47.5 percent of the time to be a better value.

Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight


A new study reports that 90 percent of biomedical research focuses on merely 10 percent of human genes. This makes sense — clearly the genes linked to stuff like cancer are going to be slightly more worthy of study than genes linked to, say, how fast toenails grow or how I am incapable of not yawning when I read the word “yawn.” Still, the scope is massive: a gene in that 10 percent is six times as likely to be important as a gene in the 90 percent, but there are roughly 8,000 times as many publications of the 10 percenter genes than the 90 percenter genes.

Tegan Taylor, ABC News

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