Numlock News: October 5, 2018

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!


Stop what you are doing immediately: the government has announced it is Fat Bear Week and I think we should hear them out. In preparation for winter, grizzly bears bulk up on food, growing from emaciated Wookiees in spring to the fearsome beasts of summer to well-fed absolute units in fall. Male Grizzlies in Yellowstone have never been documented weighing over 900 pounds, Olympic National Park’s black bears max out at about 600, but in Katmai National Park in Alaska male bears top out at well over 1,000 pounds. And because the National Park Service is a treasure, we have this beautiful transformation on film and get to vote on which bear got the fattest this very week. The Alaskan bears fare better than their lower-48 kin because winters haven’t shortened or become warmer as severely as they have down here. The bear to beat is Otis, two-time winner of the competition, and my god Otis is breathtaking.

Erin Berger, Outside Magazine


The announcement this week of the winners of the Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry marked significant milestones for women in science: Dr. Donna Strickland became the third woman — after Marie Curie in 1903 and Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963 — to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. Francis H. Arnold won the prize in Chemistry, becoming the fifth woman to do so. I think I am finally ready to listen to “Fight Song” again.

Jacey Fortin, The New York Times

Bugs That Can Change The Genetic Code Of Plants

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency funds all sorts of advanced research that poses potential benefits to the U.S. military, but its investment of $45 million into the “Insect Allies” program over four years has given some onlookers pause. Mainly, that’s because the insect allies in question are agricultural pests that can be turned into the distribution system for genetically modifying crops over the course of several generations. On one hand, this can be used to ensure agricultural security in difficult conditions, but in the wrong hands this looks a whole lot like a biological weapon. When looking at genetic modification, the difference between a sword and a plowshare is fairly squishy.

Emily Baumgaertner, The New York Times

Phone Companies Paying Up

Several cities are in the process of suing or planning to sue the FCC over a new federal policy that will save 5G carriers $2 billion that they had been paying to local municipalities for the right to put their 5G equipment on public traffic lights, poles and government-owned infrastructure. Cities charge rent for this kind of thing — for instance, Portland charges around $3000 per year for each small cell, New York City has a sliding scale where it charges $148 per month in under-served areas but $5,100 in parts of Manhattan — but the federal policy voted in on Sept. 26 would put application fees of $100 for small devices and $270 annually for the devices. If you think that the phone companies are going to send this savings back to consumers, I have a space on a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica

This Sunday’s special is an interview with the one and only Zach Weinersmith, the polymath behind Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Soonish and Laws and Sausages.


Music downloads are way, way down in 2018, with revenues in the first half of the year down 26.5 percent compared to the same period in 2017. The first half of 2018 saw $562.2 million spent on downloads, which is about half the figure in 2015, $1.25 billion. Clearly, the advent of streaming has shifted some money away from the download part of the music industry’s ledger.

Music Business Worldwide

Rich People

Proving once again that Arrested Development is a documentary, rich people believe that people who are rich are wealthier because they work harder, not because of advantages in life. They were also more likely to think that poor people were poor because of a lack of effort. Generally, 43 percent of Americans think that a person being rich has more to do with their work ethic than their life advantages while 42 percent feel the opposite. Once a person’s family income is above $75,000, those advantages appear to melt away: 49 percent of that cohort think it’s because of hard work and only 37 percent attribute it to advantages.

Amina Dunn, Pew Research Center


Nerds are filling in for OSHA when it comes to evaluating workplace injury risk for employees of the NFL, and while determining the reasons for and causes of injuries is extremely complicated there are a number of risk factors, such as play level, team ownership and coaching, and field conditions that make injuries more or less likely. By far the most important is play style: higher risk players have almost 3 times the odds of injury than lower risk players — contrast the bolder style of Arian Foster with the more conservative style of the immortal Frank Gore. While moving from a low injury risk team (like Philly or San Francisco) to a higher risk one (like Indianapolis, the Colts, or Chuck Pagano’s team, which is the Indianapolis Colts) sees injury risks rise 21 percent. Stadium effects are a smaller part of the equation, but grass fields rate far safer than turf ones.

Zach Binney, Football Outsiders

Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.

Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! 

Previous Sunday special editions: 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

Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at