Oct 24, 2021
10 mins read
👋 Hello there,
Welcome to another edition of Stellar Recap, a weekly newsletter where I share my latest explorations, discoveries, and updates. Thank you for being here. If you enjoy the newsletter, please share it with a friend. If this message was forwarded to you, make sure to follow me so you don’t miss out on future issues 😊.
💎 Stellar Recap 💎
🧪 Science & Technology
The insane biology of the axolotl. (21 min. video)
What dinosaurs actually looked like. (12 min. video)
Americans need a bill of rights for an AI-Powered world. (Wired)
John Oliver discusses the rampant misinformation that spreads through immigrant communities on social media platforms (20 min. video). I've seen how this works first-hand through my mom and her friends =/
About a third of the 1,147 known shark and ray species in the world face extinction. Populations of oceanic sharks and rays fell 71% in the past 50 years. In the Mediterranean, large shark populations fell 97% in the past two centuries.
NVIDIA and Microsoft are collaborating on the "Megatron-Turing Natural Language Generation model" which has 105 layers and 530 billion parameters. It is trained to deliver "completion prediction, reading comprehension, commonsense reasoning, natural language inferences and word sense disambiguation."
Highly novel research papers--defined as first-time ever combinations of referenced journals--are less likely to be published in peer-reviewed journals with high impact factors. This has implications for breakthroughs in science which are often funded by grant applications. One study found that applicants are more likely to be funded if committee members have cited the applicant's prior work. If the applicant has a history of conducting novel research, these reviewers are less likely to have previously cited it.
The Markup found that many nonprofit organization's websites are littered with ad trackers and third-party cookies. They also found that 439 (out of 23,856 analyzed) contained session recorders which can monitor visitors' clicks and keystrokes.
Why Some White Evangelicals Are Rethinking Their Politics. (8 min. video)
Death threats are creating a mass exodus of election officials and many county election officials are struggling to replace them. (10 min. video)
📊 Business & Economy
The Denver Art Museum is returning four ancient artifacts (WP🔒) to Cambodia upon learning that the relics were stolen by Douglas Latchford who was indicted in 2019 by U.S. prosecutors after decades of alleged trafficking in looted artifacts from the Khmer empire.
Millennials care more about leisure time and freedom--i.e. flexibility (WSJ🔒)--than their Gen X/Boomer counterparts. According to Adam Grant, freedom is much more than picking your work hours, it's "having autonomy to choose your people, your purpose and your priorities." This is not exclusive to millennials. The pandemic forced many into a slower-paced life and wondering whether they would rather lead less lucrative and more fulfilling lives, not by earning more money, but by protecting their time.
The top 1% (Bloomberg🔒) of households (about 1.3 million) hold a larger share of U.S. wealth than the entire middle class (about 77.5 million households). They gained more than $6.5 trillion in corporate equities and mutual funds over the pandemic compared with the $1.2 trillion gain among the bottom 90% of households. A new report by the Fed showed that the top 10% own 89% of equities, a 19% increase from 2019.
Amazon reported that 200,000 new sellers joined its U.S. store in 2020. That's a 45% increase from the previous year.
Pinterest launched a Creator Rewards program to promote their new feature called Idea Pins. Creators must be 18 years and older, have at least 1,000 followers, and have three Ideas Pins on their profile to qualify.
Tenure-track hires in four-year colleges and universities declined by 25% during the great recession. Hires of black, Hispanic, and Asian American faculty declined disproportionately.
New business applications reached 1.4 million in September 2021. The surge in new businesses are in industries that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic: leisure and hospitality, retail, and health care.
Since 2000, the purchasing power of Social Security benefits have decreased by 32% due to inflation. Typical expenses for older adults have increased by 104.8%.
Around 85% of the world’s magnesium production is in China. The country ordered 35 of its 50 magnesium smelters to close through the end of the year and another 15 are halving their production to reach energy targets. Expect more supply chain disruptions in the auto industry which accounts for 35% of demand for magnesium, along with any product that requires aluminum.
Whirlpool warned that supply-chain problems are constraining production. With consumer demand remains strong, shortages of dishwashers and refrigerators will continue well into next year.
🏡 Real Estate
What to expect during a land appraisal. (LandHub)
Sales of all property types rose 1.6% year-over-year in Houston. The total amount of money spent in September increased 16.9% to $4 billion, putting Houston's real estate market on track for a record breaking year.
Zillow's house-flipping unit, Zillow Offers, accounted for more than 50% of the company's total revenue in 2020 and produced $772 million in revenue in Q2 2021, a 70% increase from the same time last year.
Smaller cities like Elkhart, IN (WSJ🔒), also known as the RV capital of the world, topped the WSJ/Realtor.com Emerging Housing Markets Index in Q3 as rising housing costs and remote workers seek more living and outdoor space for affordable prices. Rapid City, Topeka, Raleigh, and Jefferson City also topped the list.
Existing-home sales rose 7% in September from August. Skyrocketing prices have pushed first-time buyers out of the market. The share of first-time buyers in the market fell to 28%, its lowest level since July 2015. Prices will likely continue to rise as the housing shortage persists. Residential permits, which can be a bellwether for future home construction, fell 7.7%.
Nearly 25% of Americans stated that COVID-19 has changed their preferences for where to spend their golden years, according to a survey from U.S. News & World Report. Eight of the top 10 cities are in Florida, with Sarasota topping the list.
First-year base rents for industrial spaces in Northern New Jersey increased 33% YoY through May, the highest increase in the country, followed by California’s Inland Empire increased over 24%. Rent increases for bulk warehouses larger than 500,000 sq. ft. grew 13.2%. As of Q1 2021, Savannah is leading the way in warehouse construction which is up 12.6%.
💛 Family & Relationships
Research commissioned by the Lego found that 76% of parents said they would encourage their sons to play with Legos, compared with 24% who would recommend Legos to their daughters. Girls were more open to different kinds of creative play than what their parents and society typically encourage, with 82% of girls believing it's OK for girls to play football and boys to do ballet compared with 71% of boys. Boys face prejudice when it comes to playing with toys traditionally perceived as feminine with 71% of boys saying they worried about being made fun of if they play with a toy typically associated with the other gender compared with 42% of girls. (NPR)
Only 56% of parents use privacy settings that limit the collection of data through children's apps. Among parents of children using social media apps, 1 in 6 are not using any parental control features.
5 interesting stats about autistic individuals, inspired by some of the observations I made while watching the Netflix series called "Love on the Spectrum." If you haven't watched the show, I highly recommend it.
🧘 Health/Well Being & Society
Ezra Klein and Holden Karnofsky, CEO of Open Philanthropy and Co-founder of Givewell, discuss frameworks for philanthropy and maximizing our ability to positively impact society. (90.21 min. podcast)
A 2012 government effort to reduce unnecessary antipsychotic drug use in nursing homes included an exemption for residents with schizophrenia, in addition to curbing the use of physical restraints. Since then, the diagnoses have grown by 70% (NYT🔒) and Black Americans with dementia have been 1.7 times as likely as their white counterparts to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Colorado spent $5 million of their COVID-19 relief money on a sweepstakes that failed to boost the state's vaccination rates. A study, which was co-authored by one of my undergraduate advisors (Andrew Friedson), suggested that there was essentially "zero difference" in vaccination rates between states with and without a vaccine sweepstakes.
A new survey showed that 1 in 2 Latinx households in Colorado lost a friend or family member to Covid-19.
Around 37.5 million American adults and 1 in 5 teens have difficulty hearing but hearing aids are expensive. The FDA has a proposed a new law that would allow people with hearing loss to purchase hearing aids over the counter without a medical exam or fitting.
The price of a pound of meth has fallen 90% over the past decade as producers began substituting ephedrine for a cheaper chemical called phenyl-2-propanone (P2P). Falling prices and wider availability as caused a spike in severe mental illness and homelessness in the U.S.
An increasing number of Latin American countries such as Uruguay, Chile and Argentina, are grappling with grass roots campaigns that aim to legalize euthanasia. Currently, Colombia is the only Latin American country that allows legal euthanasia for terminal patients or individuals suffering from "intense physical or mental suffering." Physician-assisted suicide has been legalized in six countries (Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, and Spain) along with 10 states in the U.S.
Researchers found that Latinos/as with indigenous ancestry have a greater prevalence of genes that may limit their ability to metabolize omega-3 fatty acids which increases metabolic inflammation and cholesterol levels due to a greater build-up of triglycerides. A recent study found similar patterns among Chinese populations.
Several college towns are preparing to challenge the 2020 Census results which allegedly undercounted populations during the pandemic by as much as 6% in cities like Greenville, NC.
The L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services organized a quinceañera party for 15-year old Latinas in LA foster homes 🥲. You can watch the celebration on Telemundo.
⏩ Culture & Entertainment
Squid Game: Who really wins? (16 min. video) A comment on debt and society (spoilers included). Netflix internal estimates put the value of Squid Game at $891.1 million. They paid $21.4 million (Bloomberg🔒) to produce the show. It has been viewed by 132 million subscribers in the past 23 days. They currently have 222 million subscribers. According to the company’s estimates, 89% of people who started the show watched at least 75 minutes, and 66% finished the series within the first 23 days. During their earnings call, Netflix reported a net global gain of 4.4 million new subscribers. Related but unrelated, all of the news about Squid Game led me to a funny content creator named Nick Cho aka @YourKoreanDad (discovered through this post).
Rare photos of the Yawalapiti people and their rituals for celebrating the life and mourning the loss of their Chief to Covid-19.
The Georgia Board of Regents has voted to allow its public universities to remove tenured professors (NYT🔒) with little to no faculty input.
Top-rated coding bootcamps may have comparable job placement rates as four-year Computer Science degrees.
Duolingo saw a 40% increase in Korean language learners in September, coinciding with the release of Squid Game.
⚠️ ICYMI ⚠️
I highlighted 40 websites that pay writers, from the database that I shared last week. I also shared 7 holiday gift ideas for clients and colleagues plus a companion article that shares gift ideas to support small businesses and I wrote about the curious beginnings of Morning Brew, a media company that was created by two college students and was recently acquired for $75 million.