Numlock News: September 22, 2021 • Hand Prints, Los Angeles, Met Gala

By Walt Hickey


As of Sunday, there were 73 ships waiting to unload cargo at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, a brutal logjam just as holiday cargo hits U.S. shores. There are few options around it, given that last year the ports handled 8.8 million containers, more than double the runner-up port of New York and New Jersey which handled 3.9 million. Oakland and Seattle aren’t big enough to handle the hundreds of thousands of boxes handled in L.A. and Long Beach every week, and while some shippers had been heading to East Coast ports for a while, word about that hack got around rather quickly, and so it’s getting just as bad on the Atlantic, with 20 ships queued at Savannah.

Paul Berger, The Wall Street Journal


Researchers at Purdue University announced a new type of white paint that’s capable of reflecting 98.1 percent of solar radiation. This is good news for the future of sustainable housing: a 1,000 square foot roof painted with the stuff could have a cooling power of 10 kilowatts just through bouncing back the light. As it stands, most commercial white paint gets warmer, and current paints that reject heat can reflect 80 to 90 percent of sunlight, which doesn’t make the surfaces cooler.

Doyle Rice, USA Today

Met Gala

Last weekend was the Met Gala, which is best known as, well, that’s a good question, because most people have no idea what the Met Gala is. A poll of Americans found 17 percent thought it was a fashion show, 14 percent thought it was a party for New York Fashion Week, 5 percent thought it was an award show, 22 percent thought it was a fundraiser, and 41 percent straight up didn’t know. A tiny percentage selected “other,” by which I assume they meant “the target venue in Ocean’s 8” or “a photography series designed to radicalize the proletariat.” Even self-purported fashion fans got it wrong, with 78 percent saying something, something other than the correct answer, which is “fundraiser.”

Wesley Case, Morning Consult

I’m Finished!

Last week the Los Angeles County supervisors voted to end oil and gas drilling in the parts of the county that are unincorporated, a move that will shutter 1,600 active and idle oil and gas wells. Los Angeles sits upon an enormous oil field, but the city since diversified into multiple other industries that don’t require it to subsist on extraction, and health and safety concerns of the residents in the most populous county in the country have begun to outweigh the need for urban drilling. About one in three resident live less than a mile from an active oil rig. The ordinance only applies to unincorporated areas — there are 5,000 active wells in L.A. County, with half continuing to pump in the Wilmington neighborhood and allowing them to drink the milkshake of the soon-to-be shuttered wells.

Brentin Mock and Laura Bliss, CityLab


Realistically, plans to remove plastic from the ocean aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. One operation, Ocean Cleanup, which will deploy 60 devices throughout the oceans over the next decade, claimed it could clean up half the plastic in the ocean by 2023. Most doubt that, particularly because it’s really difficult to trap plastic in the ocean, and also they have not actually deployed any operational devices yet. A researcher at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research in Germany has gone so far as to calculate that over the 20-year estimated timeline, the efforts would have no noticeable effect on levels of plastic in the ocean, to clean up a fraction of 1 percent of the plastic it’d have to run until 2150, and even if they deployed 200 booms they’d only get 5 percent optimistically. The real solution is to aggressively begin prevention of plastic from entering the environment, per a Pew Charitable Trusts report, and your basic beach cleanups have comparatively colossal impacts, removing thousands of tons of plastic from thousands of kilometers of coast.

Ryan Stuart, Hakai Magazine


A new study describes the discovery of five handprints and five footprints in limestone on the Tibetan Plateau. The handprints are believed to have been left between 169,000 years and 226,000 years ago in the middle of the Pleistocene, and the team determined they were left by two children, aged about seven years old and 12 years old. While many prints of this kind — originally left in mud — look haphazard or incidental, these appear to be deliberately placed, the prehistoric equivalent of a kid sticking their hand in fresh cement on a sidewalk.

Nicoletta Lanese, LiveScience


A proposal put forward in the House Ways and Means committee would cap the amount that the wealthy can stash away in a Roth IRA. The move follows a series of investigations that revealed that the ultra-wealthy had stowed away assets in Roths in order to avoid taxes on them. The proposal would cap the amount that could be held in a Roth at $20 million and require holders to withdraw anything above that, a provision that would apply only to individuals with a taxable income over $400,000. Roths are not taxed once the holder is aged 59 and a half, which makes them a potential tax dodge. This wouldn’t affect the vast majority of Americans — the average Roth is worth $39,108 — but would rein in people like allegedly Peter Thiel, who had $5 billion in a Roth IRA.

Justin Elliott, Patricia Callahan and James Bandler, ProPublica

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