Numlock News: September 18, 2019 • Ozone Layer, James Cameron, Kombucha

By Walt Hickey

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In a disturbing yet inevitable synthesis of two supremely trendy product developments, hard kombucha has emerged as lightning in a bottle by combining the popular earthy nonalcoholic probiotic with the increasingly loved spiked seltzers, coalescing into a frankenbeverage. It conveys to onlookers, “sure, I may be watching my pounds, but I both like to party and also definitely have a strong opinion about Jill Stein one way or another.” The 4.5 percent alcohol by volume boozy ‘bucha saw sales rise 126 percent over the 52-week period ending August 10, to $11.6 million. That’s a tiny sliver of the $1 billion hard seltzer market, but still fairly huge for an alcohol industry where drinks that encourage wellness historically peaked at the celery stick inside a Bloody Mary.

John Kell, Fortune

Challenger Deep

James Cameron, the guy who made Avatar, the good Terminator movies and Titanic, has spent his money exploring the world, especially the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench. He’s also now in a spat with another rich guy, who piloted a submarine to the deepest place on earth, over claims that said other guy, Victor Vescovo, went deeper than he did. In April, Vescovo claimed to go 35,853 feet down in a dive, which he claimed was 52 feet deeper than Cameron. The filmmaker contends that distinction is silly, that they both went to the same seafloor, and the difference comes down to margins of error in measurement, like an Everest climber who went to the same summit as another one but claimed they went higher because that’s what their altimeter said. The overall estimated depth of the trench itself varies by about 500 feet. A 2014 study put such measurements with a margin of error of plus or minus 164 feet, and Vescovo’s own team said the margin of error was plus or minus 70 feet, so I feel like the Abyss guy makes a pretty valid point here. I look forward to future stories of this caliber, like M. Night Shyamalan getting in a massive kerfuffle with a professional Rubik’s cube solver.

William J. Broad, The New York Times


This time in 2017, the area of ozone thinning above Antarctica stretched about 20 million square kilometers as part of the ozone hole’s annual springtime swelling. But this year, the hole is in better shape than before. It has been healing continuously since the 1987 Montreal Protocol that set its recovery into motion. According to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, the ozone hole is just 5 million square kilometers right now, on track to be the smallest hole observed in 30 years. The ozone layer is expected to mount a full recovery in something like 40 years, so a smaller disturbance this time around is encouraging.

George Dvorsky, Gizmodo

Get On Your Feet

Annual revenue for the fitness center industry was up 7.8 percent in 2018 to $32.3 billion. Visits to fitness centers are up 42 percent since 2008, when there were 45.5 million members of health clubs. Today that figure is 62.5 million. Were money ever to get tighter, it’s the luxury brands — the SoulCycles and Barry’s Boot Camps of the world — that stand to feel the burn, as the average monthly fee for a boutique studio user was $92 in 2017 compared to just $52 for members of a more conventional health club. That could have broader rippling effects in the economy, especially for landlords who have sought out those smaller, pricier boutiques as tenants while the rest of retail is enduring one of the more brutal eras of brick-and-mortar. Personally, I like to stay well ahead of the trends, so I’ve already gone ahead and given up on my boutique fitness memberships way before the economy makes everyone else.

Sarah Halzack, Bloomberg


Following a number of disasters, man-made and otherwise, in the 1980s and 1990s, Jamaica lost 85 percent of its coral reefs. This had an immediate impact on its fishing economy, as reefs are where the fish are: though 2 percent of the ocean floor is full of coral, the structures sustain a quarter of all marine species. The reefs are where fish reproduce, evade danger and feed, so the death of all that coral meant fish catches around Jamaica dropped to a sixth of the levels seen in the 1950s. Now, after a sustained effort, the reefs are on the mend, as a group of “coral gardeners” have worked to restore the reefs in more than a dozen sanctuaries and coral nurseries.

Christina Larson, The Associated Press

Christmastime Is Inexplicably Here

Holiday retail sales are projected to rise somewhere between 4.5 percent and 5 percent to $1.1 trillion, according to a projection from a person who apparently is unaware it’s September and that they need to calm down immediately because literally none of us are ready for this information. E-commerce sales are projected to rise 14 percent to 18 percent to as much as $149 billion, and according to retail industry analysts “it’s not even Halloween yet, Derek, why are you bringing this up I literally just sent the kid back to school.” The $1.1 trillion in projected spending has grown steadily from the $829 billion spent in 2011.

Donald Moore, Bloomberg

De Nile

Ethiopia is nearing the completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River, which will ultimately cost $4 billion to $6.4 billion and will produce 15 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, thrice the Hoover Dam’s output. That’s bound to be huge, but one issue is that the Nile is an extremely important river for several countries and Ethiopian-Egyptian relations have grown testy over the dam. In the 15 year period it’ll take to fill the reservoir, flows from the Nile into Egypt could drop 25 percent, causing tensions that will only be exacerbated by climate change. By the 2080s, negative shocks to the water supply could see 200 million deprived of water in the region, and the river’s damming could hurt Egyptian agriculture.

Zoë Schlanger, Quartz

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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Chris Ingraham ·  Invasive Species ·  The Rat Spill ·  The Sterling Affairs ·  Snakebites ·  Bees ·  Deep Fakes ·  Artificial Intelligence ·  Marijuana ·  Mussels ·  100% Renewable Grid ·  Drive Thru Dreams ·  Department Stores & Champion ·  Baltimore Crab Shacks ·  Kylie Jenner ·  Amber Fossils ·  Self-Improvement ·

Box Office Forecasting ·  Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite
2018 Sunday Editions:2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · 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