Numlock News: April 15, 2020 • Llamas, Animal Crossing, Siphonophore
By Walt Hickey
Animal Crossing: New Horizons launched on the Nintendo Switch on March 20, and it’s a massive hit. In its first three days, in Japan alone it sold 1.88 million copies, beating what Super Smash Bros. did in its first two weeks. In the U.S., it’s sold over 3 million copies, and that’s only including physical copies moved rather than digital downloads. Nintendo had estimated that it would sell 19.5 million Switch consoles in the year ending March 31, but that projection is poised to get Super Smashed: Japan accounts for just 20 percent of Nintendo’s revenue, but in the two weeks after Animal Crossing was released they sold 670,000 consoles in Japan alone.
The hottest trend in toys this year? Llamas, which at this year’s American International Toy Fair were the popular animal to mold into plastic or plush or what have you, dooming the once dominant unicorn — which had reigned supreme since around 2017 — to the playpen of history. Slinky’s got a llama for 2020, as does Lego. On Etsy, searches for unicorn items were down 37 percent over the past 12 months, while searches for llama nursery products were up 36 percent. For an industry as fad-driven as toys, any king of the jungle can only last a short time: the llama dominance is here to stay for now, but waiting in the wings are usurper beasts ranging from porcupines to flamingos to pigeons.
According to an MIT report, 34 percent of Americans who had previously commuted to work said that they were working from home by April. According to a University of Chicago estimate that 34 percent of people have the capacity to work from home based on the nature of their occupation, that means we’re pretty much at the point where everyone who can, is. Previously, only about 4 percent of the U.S. workforce worked from home half the time or more. The smart money is that this will get a lot of the people trying it out to come out and say that they want to do this more, and there may be a significant shift ahead for how companies handle their office environments. The consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics projects 30 percent of people will work from home multiple days per week within a few years, and that this unexpected situation is releasing some pretty pent-up demand for such flexibility.
Dengue is one of the world’s fastest growing diseases. It’s spread by mosquitoes and when serious can be fatal or lead to internal bleeding. There’s no vaccine or specific treatment, but if you catch it early enough victims have better odds of making it. The issue is the current gold-standard test for dengue requires a fairly sophisticated lab set up, and given that dengue predominately affects poorer, developing countries that can be hard to supply. A new paper published in Nature Chemistry describes a new test — one that uses DNA nanotechnology to mirror the unique star-shaped protein arrangement on the surface of the dengue virus — that can detect it more quickly, needing only one to two minutes according to the researchers who developed it, and most significantly at a cost of only 50 cents per test.
In 2015, U.S. sales of hard seltzer were roughly $6 million. By 2019, those wrapped at nearly $1.7 billion, having cemented their place in the beverage landscape by appealing to young people who wanted to drink, but not drink a ton of calories. Overall, they’re still maintaining a 215 percent growth, and part of that is the various beer colossi roaming the countryside that see their market share diminishing and desire some of the action: Bud Light Seltzer joined the market, as has Pabst Blue Ribbon’s Stronger Seltzer.
About 2,000 feet underwater, a large, thin, swirling creature was observed in the deep, fairly unexplored waters off the west coast of Australia. The creature — a coiled, string-like thing — was estimated to be 150 feet long, which would make it the longest organism in the ocean, beating out the lion’s mane jellyfish whose tentacles can reach up to 120 feet in length. The scientists identified the creature as a siphonophore, a colony of creatures that can grow to great lengths, and up to 30 additional new species were also identified by the researchers. Anyway, this is both a credit to the wonderful research being done in unexplored regions of our oceans, as well as a plausible pre-title sequence of a Lovecraft movie when a group of scientists observes an ominous writhing spiral in the feral depths that is a signal of that which is to come.
The airline industry — which three weeks ago estimated ticket revenue would drop $252 billion this year — now estimates that it’ll instead lose $314 billion in ticket sales in 2020, which would wipe out about 55 percent of the annual passenger revenue accrued by large global carriers. In the first bit of April, flight volume was down 80 percent worldwide, and the revised estimate is based on a slower recovery. The airlines have very little cash, having sagely and wisely blown all of that on stock buybacks, and with domestic markets not expected to open until the third quarter of the year, they’re in for trouble. I have it on good authority that a GoFundMe to benefit the companies is being organized by a friend close to them named “congress.”
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