May 5, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
If you see a stork carrying a bag home you can’t just assume anymore that it’s a family being blessed with a newborn, according to the experts at the University of East Anglia. It could well be a take-out order:
- Instead of heading over to countries in Africa from Spain and Portugal for the winter, storks have decided to stay put.
- They do this because they’ve discovered the wonders of junk food. They now just raid open landfill sites for food rather than make the arduous journey south.
- Storks now invest in finding prime nest building spots which they defend year-round.
- The convenience maybe responsible for the explosion in the population of the species – in the past 20 years their numbers have grown 10-fold.
- Alas they may pay a price for their laziness. EU directives will soon require open land-fill sites to be shut down. Hopefully the birds haven’t entirely forgotten how to make it south to find food.
Read more about the study here.
Via: Marginal Revolution
May 4, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
Zusha Elinson wondered if the key to understanding the short-term future of the tech industry was to look at sales of ping-pong tables:
- For tech companies having ping-pong tables is a sign that they are a different and distinct place to work.
- When companies struggle to find funding or are uncertain about their future, it makes sense that expenditures on the tables – which can be very expensive and have little resale value – fall.
- The ping-pong table industry saw a 50% drop in sales in Q1 2016. Over the same quarter startup funding decreased by 25%.
- Until 2014 Twitter was a big purchaser of ping-pong tables. Since then the company has run into financial trouble.
- Intel stopped buying the tables last year. Last month 12,000 employees were laid off.
- No one really remembers when perennially crisis-ridden Yahoo last purchased a ping-pong table.
- Google, on the other hand, which saw an increase in profits in the latest quarter, recently made a big order for them.
- The tables will probably only work as a financial indicator in the short-term. During the previous tech-bubble it was pool, not ping-pong tables, that startups kept around for their employees.
- They seem to have realized, however, that not only are ping-pong tables cheaper, they can also double as meeting tables in a pinch.
Read what ping-pong table manufacturers think about all this, and other details here.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
May 2, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
Zero Hedge covered one of the many alarming elements of Venezuela’s ongoing financial crisis:
- Hyperinflation in Venezuela has caused a financing crisis for the government – with public servants being required to take five day “weekends” in order to save money.
- The government has been trying to print money to make its payments – further fueling inflation and driving a vicious cycle.
- Venezuela has struggled to print the money itself – partly because the country has a shortage of the security paper, and metallic ink required to pump out the currency.
- So it has outsourced currency printing to other international vendors – who have been delivering bank notes by the 747 plane-load.
- Recently, however, it has emerged that the government has missed $71 million worth of payments to one of its vendors, and it’s unclear if the government will ever make that payment.
- It doesn’t help that the largest denomination note is for a mere 100 Bolivars – about ten American cents on the black market.
- The administration of Nicolás Maduro, the President, could save a lot of money by releasing higher denomination notes that it wouldn’t have to print as many of.
- However, the government fears that this will contribute to inflation – right now, at least, prices are limited by the amount of notes that can be carried in a wheelbarrow.
- As it is Maduro’s government has stopped printing denominations of 20 Bolivars and below because they cost more to produce than they are worth.
Read the full saga over here.
Source: Zero Hedge
May 1, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
Geoff Manaughmarch mused about the things he learned while he was flying around in Los Angeles’ police helicopters:
- A city’s infrastructure shapes the kind of crimes it has to deal with. The soft sedimentary rocks of Los Angeles mean that crimes committed through tunnels are far more common than in the granite New York City.
- Los Angeles’ extensive freeways also make bank jobs more lucrative as thieves have an easy route to make a quick get-away.
- Police choppers can’t get too close to airports because of the restricted airspace, meaning that get-away drivers are increasingly learning to lose heat in and around airports.
- Right now police copters are hindered by their inability to pinpoint exact addresses they can direct ground forces towards. As aerial policing – through things such as drones – becomes more common, expect to see a push to paint street addresses on rooftops.
Read more about what the police see from their eyes in the skies, and how predictive policing could change the role that helicopters have to play over here.
Source: The New York Times
Via: Marginal Revolution
April 29, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
The headline is meant to be taken quite literally. In Apple’s app store, Twitter has changed its category from “Social” to “News”. In separate articles Sarah Perez and Dieter Bohn looked into why this change may have been made:
- Twitter had another disappointing financial quarter, with its share price plummeting soon after the results were announced.
- Part of the problem is that everybody compares Twitter, and its (relatively) small user base, to the massive pool of users that Facebook has.
- Instead of trying to compete with Facebook head on in social networks, executives may want to change the conversation so that they’re no longer being compared to Facebook and instead define their own category.
- After all, no one really tries comparing LinkedIn’s user base with Facebook as a measure of LinkedIn’s success – because we think of LinkedIn as existing in a category distinct from Facebook.
- It also has a more practical implication. On Apple’s app store Twitter was ranked the #5 most popular social networking app.
- As a news app it’s the #1 app of its category – massively increasing exposure and possibly even improving overall ranking numbers.
Read more on the two authors’ takes here and here.
Source: TechCrunch and The Verge
April 28, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
Richard Lai covered Hover Camera – a personal drone that follows you around:
- Hover Camera recognizes your face and then follows you about taking photos or videos as you engage in your daily activities.
- It works indoors and outdoors and can, for example, follow you while you’re out for a run.
- Features such as gesture control and orbiting mode are expected soon.
- Unfortunately, its limited to about eight minutes of flying – though the makers have gone out of their way to make the battery easily replaceable while you’re out and about.
- And the $600 price tag is steep. But once the technology improves perhaps we can all expect to have little personal assistant drones, following us around, helping us out, and documenting our lives.
Read more over here.
April 27, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
Angry Birds (the movie), Finding Dory, a new Ice Age, and even a movie about those 90s toy Trolls – the upcoming calendar is full of animated movies. Kyle Stock delved into the economics of the business:
- We’re reaching saturation point for animated movies, in part because they earn a 36% return.
- This is far ahead of the 26% that second placed Science Fiction/Fantasy movies earn, and well ahead of dramas and comedies that struggle to break even.
- But, while a lucrative opportunity, it is also an expensive one. The top movies need to shell out for A-List voice talent and skilled animators, all of which can cost $100 million.
- Through in another $150 million for promotions.
- If directors want to cut costs they avoid hair and water – two expensive things to animate. It’s no coincidence that the Minions movie starred largely bald characters.
- But you don’t want to cut too many corners. Fortune favours the bold. The more spent, the greater the likelihood of success. One expert believes that it’s riskier to make a $90 million movie than a $150 million one.
- The cost means that failures really hurt. Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and Rise of the Guardians, are two recent flops that cost DreamWorks a substantial amount of money.
- But no studio can resist the allure of making the next Frozen. Ticket sales for that movie alone were $1.3 billion. Which is peanuts compared to the $6 billion it made in ancillary revenue from things like its soundtrack.
Read more here.
Source: The Star
Via: Marginal Revolution
April 26, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
In the future mobile phones could subtly change city infrastructure, wrote John Metcalfe:
- Pedestrians who text and walk at the same time have a tendency to get hit by cars or run over by trains.
- One German city is embedding pedestrian lights into the roads around a train station. The hope is that texters while looking down at their phones will also see the red lights that indicate an oncoming locomotive.
- Critics of the idea say that you cannot “protect against…idiots”.
Read more here.
Source: City Lab
April 25, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
Harper Lee. Alan Rickman. David Bowie. And now Prince. 2016 has been a rough year for noted celebrities. Roland Hughes and Laura Gray wrote about why there has been so much death:
- Television meant increasing fame for a larger group of people.
- TV really spread in the 60s – and those that were famous then are beginning to enter their 70s now and are dying off.
- Soon after World War 2 there was also a growth spurt in the population known as the baby boom. Baby boomers make up a large proportion of the population and thus of celebrities. As they enter their grey years they’re passing away.
- All of this helps explains why in the first three months of 2016 around twice as many celebrities died as in the first three months of 2015.
- It also means that we should expect the rest of this year – and the next ten or so years – to be heavy on celebrity deaths, as boomers continue to age.
Read more over here.
April 22, 2016 in Editorial
Like many pets, Daenerys’ dragons looked really cute when they were young, sitting on Khaleesi’s shoulder and immolating slavemasters. But the dragons have grown up; in fact this season Drogon is rumoured to be 80 feet in length. Which got us thinking, how much would it cost to feed that thing?
As in, assuming you don’t want to just feed it shepherds’ kids. Read the rest of this entry →