Numlock News: September 28, 2018

By Walt Hickey

In this Sunday’s special edition, I talk to Fast Company’s Mark Wilson about the enormous design effort, market research and space-saving engineering that goes into… airplane bathrooms.

Mario Kart IRL

A Tokyo court ruled that MariCar — a company that offers city tours to visitors who ride around in go kart styles similarly to Nintendo’s Mario Kart franchise — must pay ¥10 million ($89,000) in damages to Nintendo and stop renting costumes. This comes just ahead of Nintendo opening up a real life Mario Kart at Super Nintendo World in Universal Studios Japan. Given the consequence-free success of those scooter infestations, I expect to see a bunch of dinguses on the Jersey Turnpike dressed as Double Dash characters by Q1 2019.

Aisha Hassan, Quartz


HBO is getting out of the boxing business after 45 years and over 1,000 fights aired. Back when HBO’s subscriber base was around 15 million, a memorable fight could attract one-third of those viewers. They’re now near 40 million subscribers — many of whom came for the violent delights of Westworld and the violent ends of Game of Thrones — while an HBO boxing telecast that costs between $1.5 million and $3 million only pulled an average of 820,000 viewers in 2018.

Wallace Matthews, The New York Times

Invasive Species

Australia is attempting to root out a number of non-native species that are disrupting its natural, extremely venomous ecosystem. The feral donkey population in Australia is estimated to be 5 million, and they’re working on shooting them from helicopters. The state of Victoria pays $10 per fox killed, and pays out nearly $1 million in bounties a year. And a 2015 plan to kill 2 million feral cats — which wreak havoc on local birds — by 2020 led to 211,000 cats killed in the first year. Turns out, this whole time the most dangerous predator in Australia were the dang Australians.

Emma Marris, The Atlantic


Blood products account for 1.6 percent of U.S. exports. Plasma is used in any number of essential medical procedures worldwide, and American clinics collect 31,000 tons of plasma annually. That’s because most countries don’t allow companies and hospitals to pay plasma donors, meaning that the Americans provide 60 percent of the world’s plasma supply. Still, it’s weird to talk about this like some sort of abstract pharmaceutical — it’s literally the wet part of people’s blood — mainly because half of U.S. plasma centers are in low-income U.S. neighborhoods.

Kathleen McLaughlin, The Guardian

Rural Growth

Between 2001 and 2016, 97 percent of total job growth in the Unites States happened in urban counties. And while rural America is absolutely struggling, all of rural America isn’t all struggling. Take all the U.S. counties that were in the top 10 percent when it came to job growth. Many were urban, sure (33.8 percent are large metros, 13.7 percent medium metros and 10.8 percent are small metros), and many were rural and adjacent to a metro (18.4 percent) but there are plenty of remote rural counties doing great: 15.9 percent of the counties in the top 10 percent for job growth are small and rural and not adjacent to a metro. Typically, it’s because the factory fairy recently visited: Storey County in Nevada got the Tesla factory, Love County, Oklahoma got a casino, Sumter County, Florida got a retirement community.

Richard Florida, CityLab


Boeing has scored a massive defense contract worth as much as $9.2 billion to build training jets for the U.S. Air Force. Boeing will make 351 to 475 training aircraft and 120 ground-based systems through 2034, beating out Lockheed Martin for the contract. This is big, but this also means that Boeing has the inside track on all the other overseas orders that result from other countries upgrading their training fleets to keep up: one estimate holds that in the next decade global demand will be 2,441 turbofan-powered trainers, a $30.3 billion market.

Anthony Capaccio and Julie Johnsson, Bloomberg

Eradication of Mosquitos

Mosquitoes have been the bane of the human species for generations, but a controversial new gene edit could hypothetically wipe out an entire species if introduced. Essentially, female mosquitoes that have two copies of a specifically edited gene are infertile, while females with one copy can reproduce and males with any copy can reproduce. Tests were carried out on two groups of mosquitoes by mixing in genetically edited males to 12.5 percent of the total population. Soon enough — within 7 generations in one group and within 11 generations in the other — all the females were sterile, and thus the population collapsed. Further tests are being done, but the question is an interesting one: if we could eradicate mosquitoes, should we?

John Timmer, Ars Technica

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Previous Sunday special editions: 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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