Numlock News: September 1, 2021 • Cougars, Hornets, Ha'penny

By Walt Hickey

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Assimilated

A ballot initiative in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania — a suburb of Pittsburgh — would bring the 15,218 citizen borough into the city of Pittsburgh. The issue is that, with 1,400 abandoned structures across 2.3 miles, Wilkinsburg is weighing the benefits of remaining indie versus joining the major label of Pittsburgh. As the tax base has shrunk, the property owners who have stuck around have seen increasing costs: the mill rate, or the dollar amount taxed per each $1,000 of assessed property value, is 45.23, significantly higher than the 23.49 of Pittsburgh. A CVS assessed at $1.3 million in Wilkinsburg pays $62.289 in property taxes, compared to an equivalent CVS in Pittsburgh that pays $29,560. It’s controversial, but not unheard of: in the late 19th century cities went on acquisition sprees for similar reasons, such as when Brooklyn decided to join New York in 1890, or when Los Angeles committed to the TMZ and acquired the San Fernando Valley in the 1910s, or when Minneapolis swiped right on St. Paul on Hinge and, well, the rest is history.

Nick Keppler, CityLab

Just A Ha'penny Sir!

A startup exchange backed by a number of Wall Street firms wants the SEC to allow it to price some stocks in increments of half-cents, with the eventual goal of reducing costs for buyers by making stock prices a little more accurate. For instance, given Apple’s $2.51 trillion market cap and $151.83 stock price, each shift of a single cent in its stock price is worth a swing of $165 million in market value; therefore, a little bit more nimble pricing could hypothetically benefit the mom-and-pops. A 2005 regulation called the Sub-Penny rule blocks exchanges from displaying prices of stocks worth more than $1 at increments less than a cent.

Alexander Osipovich, The Wall Street Journal

Asian Giant Hornets

As of the end of August, the Washington State Department of Agriculture has set 774 traps designed to catch the invasive Asian giant hornet, an arthropod that can average 1.75 inches in length. Since the hornets were first discovered in 2019, two nests have been found, but 2021 logged 2,111 reported sightings of the hornets, of which three were verified. Last week, the Washington Department of Agriculture killed the first nest of the year, believed to contain around 1,500 of the bugs.

Jessica Kutz, High Country News

Cats

Pumas are a critical part of ecosystems in the American West, keeping the population of prey in reasonable bounds and serving as a crucial wingman to scavengers. Male mountain lions require about 150 square miles of range, and female mountain lions need about 65 square miles. In the Santa Monica Mountains, a 153,000 acre urban national park, highways criss-cross the area and housing developments cut back on the range. When Florida encountered this problem, the panther population very nearly died out due to a lack of genetic diversity. California now faces a similar problem given that, while they may have more cougars, they’re so geographically separated by highways their genetic diversity is likewise imperiled.

Craig Pittman, Scientific American

Drugs

Since humankind first isolated morphine from poppies, the natural world has been a compelling source of medicinal compounds that can be isolated into pharmaceuticals. Bacteria have been a huge driver for active compounds later applied to drugs: among active pharmaceutical compounds from microbes, 60 percent come from bacteria, and of those three in four come from a class called Acinomycetes. Researchers have searched high and low for microbes that may advance medical science. A 1989 study pulling sediment samples from the ocean floor found 289 distinct acinomycete colonies, and since then one of them has produced a compound, salinosporamide A, that has promise in treating some cancers.

Stephanie Stone, Hakai Magazine

Bigger

In 2010, there were zero wind turbines in the United States that had rotors over 115 meters in diameter. As of last year, 91 percent of the new turbines installed in the United States were larger than 115 meters. This has been a shift in thinking from wind developers, who are increasingly comfortable going more than the 500 feet in height than invited Federal Aviation Administration scrutiny.

Doug Johnson, Ars Technica

Community Chest

As many cities strive to expand their housing, parking remains top of mind for many developments. The estimated construction cost across 12 U.S. cities for parking structures came out to an average of $24,000 per space for aboveground parking and $34,000 per space for underground parking, values that can be passed on to renters. Street parking, though, remains a steal: there are 250 million cars in the U.S. and 2 billion parking spots, and cars spend 95 percent of their existence parked. The reality is that American cities hand over a colossal amount of free real estate to inactive cars, space that opponents argue could be used for transportation that better benefits commuters.

Danya Evans, Bloomberg

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