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Would you walk wombats in Tasmania?

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June 30, 2024 | View Online | Sign Up | Shop
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The wackiest headlines from the week as they would appear in a Classifieds section.


SURVIVALIST W/ PROPER FOOTWEAR: A man miraculously survived 10 days in California's Big Basin Redwoods State Park after getting lost on a hike. He sustained himself on a few berries and water he collected with his boot.

SEEKING PATTERN MIXER: Some devotees to Baggu's nylon purse stylings are up in arms about the use of Midjourney AI to develop new patterned prints. Meanwhile, no one seems bothered by the fact that a human designed their horse-shaped purse.


IF YOU LIKE EARLY MORNING DRIVES: A New Zealand woman sued her boyfriend for not showing up to drive her to the airport after he verbally committed to giving her a ride. In his defense, the couple were together for 6.5 years, long after the need to impress your SO goes away.

CAP AND GOWN: A 105-year-old woman received her master's degree in education at Stanford University, 83 years after she completed the coursework. Virginia "Ginger" Hislop worked as an educator her whole life but left Stanford before finishing her master's thesis because her boyfriend was called up to serve in World War II.

For sale

EUREKA LETTER: The original letter Albert Einstein wrote to FDR warning the president about Germany's nuclear advancement is up for sale, should you want something to break out at a party to immediately kill the vibe.

DEATH BY NOODLES: Cup Noodles released a new flavor of ramen—pufferfish. The delicacy can easily cost over $100 at Japanese restaurants, while the noodles cost only $1.90. That's still a high price to pay for something that could kill you, since pufferfish are poisonous and, if not prepared properly, cause death.

DEFINITELY USEFUL MULTIVITAMINS: You can stop lying to your mom that you take your multivitamin every day. A new study found no indication that a daily multivitamin or other supplements improves longevity in healthy adults, so you can fill that space in your pantry with more bags of Cheetos.—CC




Photo of the week

Researchers created a 3D facial mold and a 2D robot covered with lab-grown living skin. The University of Tokyo

Were you worried that humanoid robots weren't creepy enough? The University of Tokyo has you covered.

Researchers unveiled a robot with lab-grown skin that can mimic the way a real human smiles and will surely be the last thing some of us see before they turn on us. The purpose of the skin is not to fuel nightmares but to give the robots a protective layer against wear and tear that also heals itself. The skin remains attached to the robot in a way that's just as upsetting as the idea itself—it seeps through holes in the robot skeleton and creates V-shaped hooks that prevent the skin from sliding off the robot.

Apologies to anyone who saw this while eating a big Sunday morning breakfast.—DL




Dept. of Progress

Science joke about matter ImgFlip

Here are some illuminating scientific discoveries from the week to help you live better and maybe even stop picking at your nails, skin, or hair.

How to curb anxious behaviors like nail-biting. The 1 in 20 people worldwide who engage in repetitive hair-pulling, skin-picking, nail-biting, or other body-focused behaviors can reduce their compulsions with a simple habit-replacement technique, according to new research. In a study of people with trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder), lightly rubbing the fingertips, palms, or back of the arm at least twice a day helped 53% of people to feel some improvements in their repetitive behaviors, compared to 20% of the control group. Experts say the results are promising, but they still need to be confirmed with more research. Still, 86% of the participants said they would recommend the treatment to a friend.

Annual reports that emphasize trust may be a red flag for investors. Companies that gush about their trustworthiness are more likely to be untrustworthy, according to a new study published in the Journal of Business Ethics. Researchers reviewed thousands of annual reports from 1995 to 2018 and found that companies using words like "ethical," "integrity," and "responsibility" tended to receive less stock buzz in the 48 hours after the report and get hit with ~$100,000 more in auditing fees than firms that didn't use trust-evoking words. The companies speaking positively about themselves were also ~15% more likely to get a letter of concern from the SEC asking them to clarify some things on their annual report. Meanwhile, companies that went sans trust words scored higher on corporate responsibility assessments.

Despite rising seas, tiny islands haven't shrunk. A review of land data on 709 atolls (small, shallow islands often found in chains) in the Pacific and Indian Oceans found that 89% of the tiny land masses have grown in size or stayed the same over the past several decades, while only 11% shrunk. The reason: The wave currents that erode shorelines also naturally crush surrounding coral reef remains into sediment that can drift over and expand atolls' edges, the New York Times reported. Since tiny islands can seemingly cope with rising sea levels (at least for now), one of the researchers said he's "confident that there'll be islands in the Maldives" for decades, giving inhabitants more time to adapt and respond to environmental changes.—ML




At 50, is the barcode nearing retirement?

Barcode scanned assalve/Getty Images

This week marks 50 years since commerce met the barcode, a visual symbol whose impact on business has been far more than symbolic. It all started with a red flash in an Ohio supermarket when a pack of Juicy Fruit gum became the first grocery item ever to be scanned via barcode on June 26, 1974.

The beep heard 'round the world ushered in a new era of streamlined transactions and inventory management that have made modern retail efficient. To this day, what is officially called the Universal Product Code (UPC) allows stores to carry thousands of products and quickly identify them in their digital system.

Here is the story of how the barcode became the ID symbol for everything from candy bars to newborn babies…and why its demise might be near.

How do they work?

The barcode's genius lies in its ability to encode information with simplistic elegance.

  • The lines of varying width correspond to numbers, forming a 12-digit code that signifies the product's name and manufacturer.
  • A laser scanner detects how light is absorbed into the black lines on a white background and conveys the information to a computer.

Barcode backstory

Using scannable lines to encode information was a concept first devised by engineers Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver, who patented the tech in 1949. But their brainchild didn't gain traction until after the invention of the laser for easy scanning.

In 1971, grocery chains assembled a committee to find a compact, printable symbol that the industry could widely adopt to speed up the checkout process.

  • Woodland's and Silver's concept, a design with concentric circles, was the front-runner until IBM swooped in with a last-minute submission.
  • IBM proposed the rectangular barcode we know today, which had a lower error rate and was even endorsed by Woodland as superior to his own.

This quickly became a global industry standard, ensuring the barcode's enduring relevance. In the decades that followed, the barcode enabled inventories to swell to thousands of items as stores did away with physical price tags and manual records.

But is the barcode in its dying throes?

Despite its ubiquity, the barcode is at risk of being made obsolete by its more sophisticated cousin: the QR code. The patterned squares you begrudgingly scan for restaurant menus can hold more encoded product information.

The QR code represents data with both the width and the height of its shapes, making it 2D. This means that in addition to identifying a product like a barcode does, it can convey the item's place of origin, ingredients, and expiration date, and even lead to an associated website.

GS1, a nonprofit that administers national barcode standards, is rolling out a QR-like 2D code that will serve as the next-gen universal scannable label, aiming for widespread adoption by 2027.

  • The new codes will serve as both the product ID for checkout and a way for customers to engage with products on their phones by viewing specs and snagging deals.
  • Retailers will be able to collect more data on customers and how they interact with items in the store. They could also use the data-rich 2D codes to offer situational discounts, like for products that are about to expire.

Puma is the first company to implement 2D labels at its US stores and is using them to tout its sustainability efforts to inquisitive customers.

Looking ahead…both the barcode and its QR counterpart may one day endure only in the form of nostalgic tattoos thanks to other new tech that ditches scannable symbols entirely. Uniqlo has begun embedding their products with RFID chips, enabling scanless checkout where customers put their items in a bin with sensors. And Amazon is developing object-recognition AI that can ID products without the need for a tag.—SK





Do you have a recommendation you want to share with Brew readers? Submit your best rec here and it may be featured in next week's list.

Watch: Chappell Roan covered The Cranberries before she was everyone's fav.

Buy: You're too old to be rolling up to the BBQ with a styrofoam cooler, but not too old to offer a Coors from the Undertaker cooler.

Listen: It's a bit different from his days in the metalcore band Attack! Attack!, but Bilmuri's new album is perfect to bump while you're emotionally cleaning your grill.

Eat: A mayo-based salad? In this heat? Try Gỏi Gá (Vietnamese chicken salad) with rotisserie chicken and crisp veggies.

Hike: Some easy, breezy, beautiful trails under five miles in some of the most scenic places in the country.

Workout gear: Gymshark made a double-layered Diffuse Sweat headband to protect Black hair.

Address the root cause: Cult favorite brand L'Amarue can help rescue and repair even the most challenging skin so you can enjoy your summer. Use code BREW20 for 20% off.*

*A message from our sponsor.




Place to be: Working an odd job in Tasmania

Wombat Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images

It's a big world out there. In this section, we'll teleport you to an interesting location—and hopefully give you travel ideas in the process.

Tasmania is looking to reverse declining tourism by offering 10 unpaid jobs, including wombat walker, paranormal investigator, and whine whisperer.

The gimmicky plan to attract travelers during the Southern Hemisphere's winter months (June through August) requires participants to complete one day of experiential work but comes with travel, food, and lodging expenses covered by the Tasmania tourism board.

If working with wombats and learning more about their mysterious cubed poops isn't for you, here are some other gigs that can bolster your LinkedIn page:

  • Truffle Snuffler: Work with a truffle dog to help sniff out fresh black winter truffles.
  • Puffer Nut: Perform checks on a train that will carry you through the Tasmanian wilderness.
  • Sauna Stoker: Monitor and maintain the temperatures of the sweatboxes by keeping the fires that power them going.

Tasmania is getting lonely. The Australian island state had 1.25 million visitors last year. That's an improvement over 2022 but still below the 1.35 million visitors it received in 2019 before the pandemic.

The catch: Only Australian citizens are eligible for the gigs, and you must be a resident for four years before applying for citizenship. The good news is that 90% of applications are processed within 10 months, so if you act now, you can be working with wombats and truffle dogs as early as 2029.—DL




Crowd work

Last week we asked, "How did you make your last new friend?" Here are our favorite responses:

  • "Was yelling at a Celtics game so loud on my back porch that one of the guys in the neighborhood behind us came down to see what was going on. Ended up watching the rest of the game with me and we're friends to this day."—Shawn from Boston, MA
  • "I was on a rafting trip in the middle of Idaho when one of the guys had the idea of going and doing a poetry writing session…I thought it sounded awesome, and we wrote poetry about nature and talked for a solid 45 minutes. One of the guys there was pretty cool, and he gave me his Instagram. Now we're bros fr."—Michael from Spokane, WA
  • "Met Nancy volunteering at the food shelf. We decided to go see Willie Nelson's Outlaw concert in Somerset, Wisconsin. We are both in our mid-70s, sat on the ground, and inhaled the pot smoke that surrounded us during the evening. Pretty fun."—Corinne from Bloomington, MN
  • "Last year I thought I was going to an event on the last Monday of the month, but it turns out April only has 30 days, and I showed up for a book club that met in the same place on the first Monday of the month. Even though I didn't read the book, the discussion was so lively that I've been coming back each month to discuss books with a great group of book nerds."—Phillip from The Bronx

This week's question

As a host, what's your biggest guest pet peeve?

Matty's answer to get the juices flowing: "Please don't lock your bike to my neighbor's fence. I have a backyard. I'm begging you."

Share your response here.




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Written by Dave Lozo, Cassandra Cassidy, Molly Liebergall, Matty Merritt, and Sam Klebanov

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