You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.
A weird star — Tabby’s Star — was thought to have some dimming patterns that could have been evidence of extraterrestrial infrastructure … but which astronomers now say is probably just cosmic dust. Tabby’s Star, made public in 2015, has dimmed about 0.34 percent every year and fluctuated in brightness. Again, probably dust, but who knows. I’m still holding out that “Halo” is real. [The Atlantic]
Two security flaws in microprocessors that power the world’s computers could have disastrous effects. The problems are called Meltdown and Spectre, and they can allow hackers to steal the entire memory contents of computers. Meltdown can be fixed with a software patch that could slow down computers by up to 30 percent, which is awful. Spectre can’t be easily fixed, which is even more awful. [The New York Times]
A JAMA study found that 63 percent of the U.S. increase in health care spending from 1996 to 2013 was attributable to providers doing more for patients in each visit and charging more for those procedures. Disentangling those two things is tricky, but the point is that the disproportionate increases in health care costs in America aren’t because we’re inherently sicker or because we spend longer in the hospital or because there’s more of us or because we’re older. It’s mostly because of pricing and the amount of care. [The New York Times]
The Chinese company DJI controls around 70 percent of the global consumer drone business and saw sales reach $2.7 billion last year. The Chinese Ministry of Industry and IT is forecasting massive growth for the drone sector, something like 40 percent growth annually through 2020 and 25 percent annually thereafter. [Technode]
The hot new food item of the next few years may be the mushroom. Grand View Research projecting the mushroom market to exceed $50 billion within the next six years. That’s in part because of how trendy mushroom derivatives have become. Sure, now “functional foods” like medicinal chaga and reishi mushroom extracts make you “health conscious.” But when I wanted to buy medicinal mushrooms back in college I was “skirting dangerously close to running afoul of the drug laws of the United States of America and Commonwealth of Virginia.” [Fast Company]
1 to 3 trillion fish
Bad news everyone: turns out fish can probably feel pain. Every year 10 to 100 billion fish are farmed and 1 to 3 trillion are caught from the wild. If they have the capacity for pain, we probably need to think about what that means for how to ethically raise, catch and kill them, and I say that as a rather devoted carnivore. [Hakai Magazine]
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