Numlock News: October 30, 2018

By Walt Hickey

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Special Mugs That Break All The Time

The Air Force has spent $326,785 since 2016 on a specialized coffee cup that reheat liquids aboard air refueling tankers. They cost $1,280 each, break extremely easily, and parts cannot be replaced, so it seems like some military contractor lucked into the best hustle on earth. The branch has purchased 391 of the cups in the past two year. The Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office deduced in July that replacements for the cup’s handles can in fact be 3D printed for about 50 cents, negating the need to spend $1,280 every time some clumsy pilot drops a coffee cup.

Josh Hafner, USA Today

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

A survey of almost 3,000 Americans found that, if forced to choose between only Halloween or Thanksgiving, 76 percent of Americans would pick the day when hungry teenagers put on a mask and pretend to be someone they are not while 19 percent would pick Halloween.

Dan Kopf, Quartz

Non-Football Players

While football is still the most popular sport for boys aged 14 to 17, the high school game is in decline. In 2009, 1.14 million athletes participated in 11-player high school football, a figure that slipped to 1.03 million in 2017. In New Jersey, the number of players fell 6.8 percent between 2016 and 2017, the fourth-highest decline in the country behind Colorado, Montana and Oklahoma. This has forced some programs to either merge or close up shop, but has also led to some unexpected consequences: the population of debate team members is presumably spiraling out of control due to a decline in their natural predators.

Zach Schonbrun, The New York Times

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The domination of the self-checkout machine — a device universally acknowledged to suck — has been somewhat over-hyped. In 2006, consultants predicted there would be 200,000 self-checkout lanes in operation by 2007. In reality, there were still only 191,000 by 2013. I suppose some unexpected item interfered. Then they predicted there would be 325,000 by 2019, but that was abandoned in 2016. Now, the BBC has predicted there will be 468,000 by 2021, which seems like a bad bet given there are fewer than 300,000 today.

Kaitlyn Tiffany, Vox

Down By The Bay

Hurricane Sandy punched three holes straight through Fire Island, a sandy barrier island off the coast of Long Island. Two of those swathes were filled, but one — tied up in federal red tape — was not. At first, Long Islanders typically protected from the Atlantic by Fire Island were worried about the effect this might have on the beach. But since the breach, Bellport Bay has been transformed, as marine life that was wiped out by over fishing and nitrogen runoff has returned. A computer model estimated this was because the amount of time it took to cycle water out of the bay fell from 19 days to 5 days.

Dan Garisto, Hakai Magazine


The mass of a “kilogram” is determined by an actual object, a 139-year-old platinum and iridium cylinder. It’s in a triple-locked vault in Paris and literally defines the concept of mass for most of Earth. That’s cool, but it is also kind of silly, so scientists from 57 countries will vote this month at a conference on shifting 4 units of measure — the kilogram, the ampere, kelvin and mole — to derivatives of universal constants of physics. Instead of being based on a robustly guarded dollop of metal in France, the kilogram can be derived from Planck’s constant by anyone who knows what that is. This makes things easier to explain to future generations, and also because lots of things could happen to the even most important paperweights of Europe.

Clara Moskowitz, Scientific American


The Mid-Atlantic may be primed for a snowier-than-average winter, according to the latest estimates from private forecasters. An El Nino event is expected to develop, fueling the elevated snowfall. Washington D.C.’s average snowfall is 15.4 inches, but this year WeatherBell predicts 25 inches. The Weather Company predicts 23 inches, Perspect Weather predicts higher than 25 inches, AccuWeather predicts 30 inches, Commodity Weather Group predicts 23 inches and WUSA9 projects 20 to 30 inches. I know it’s the day before Halloween, but the avenue near my house just put up holiday decorations so I’m buckling down for winter.

Jason Samenow, Capital Weather Gang

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Previous Sunday special editions: Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores

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