Numlock News: August 31, 2022 • Theme Parks, Zombie Ice, Cyberspace
By Walt Hickey
No Longer Defunct Lands
The theme park business is humming right now, with the major American theme park companies posting revenue figures that put even pre-pandemic hauls to shame. Disney’s parks made $7.39 billion in the second quarter of 2022 compared to $6.58 billion in the same quarter of 2019. Universal made $1.8 billion from parks compared to $1.46 billion in Q2 2019, and Cedar Fair brought in $509 million compared to $436 million in Q2 2019. While increased attendance is a big part of that, the real hustle has been getting more out of every visitor at the park; in Disney, per-capita spending in the third quarter of this year is up 40 percent over the same quarter of 2019, and Six Flags, SeaWorld and Cedar Fair all found a way to squeeze out more dollars per guest compared to early 2020.
The Museum of the Bible, founded by the owners of craft chain Hobby Lobby, has been going through its collection to return items they obtained that were in fact looted. The latest is the Eikosiphoinissa Manuscript 220, a 10th to 11th century manuscript of the Gospels that it turns out was one of 431 manuscripts looted from the Kosinitza Monastery in northern Greece in 1917 by Bulgarian partisans during World War I. It was bought by the museum’s founders in 2011. The museum has had pervasive issues like this, returning 13 biblical fragments that had been stolen by an Oxford professor, finding that all of its Dead Sea Scrolls are actually fakes, the time that the founders had to return 11,500 artifacts to Iraq and Egypt, and most recently when a cuneiform tablet depicting part of the Epic of Gilgamesh was repatriated back to Iraq.
The Cyberspace Administration of China published summaries of 30 algorithms from the country’s most important internet companies including ByteDance, Alibaba and Tencent. This is the first time a regulator compelled internet companies to cough up deets about their secret sauce. The public filings aren’t much to look at — some are especially sparse and actually lag what major global technology companies have voluntarily disclosed — but the full filings to the government are kept secret and contain extensive descriptions of the algorithmic functions.
Harris County, Texas, enacted federally-mandated bail reform for misdemeanors five years ago, and the results of how that affected incarceration and recidivism can now be seen. A new study looked at 517,000 cases from January 2015 to May 2022, and found that there was a 15 percent drop in guilty pleas, a 17 percent decline in the likelihood of a jail sentence, and a 15 percent decline in convictions, which the authors say may be linked to fewer innocent people doing time. Furthermore, there was a 13 percent increase in the people released within 24 hours of a misdemeanor arrest, and most compellingly a 6 percent decline in new prosecutions over the three years that follow an arrest. Needless to say, this is encouraging: Not only are people spending less time locked up on an accusation of a crime, but the policy appears to be actually reducing recidivism.
In addition to inflation — where the price of a good increases in order to keep up with the value of a dollar — another way people who sell stuff can contend with the prevailing economic forces is shrinkflation, where you keep the price the same but reduce the unit size, so keep it 99 cents but sell 6 ounces of potato chips instead of the 8 ounces per bag you had been selling. In general, people are wise to these strategies: 54 percent of Americans reported they’d seen, read or heard something about shrinkflation, and 65 percent of people are at least somewhat concerned about it. According to the poll, Americans have most noticed the practice in snacks, pantry items and frozen foods.
Shrubs are spreading across the Alaskan tundra that was previously uninhabitable to them, a significant ecological change for a habitat that was once unsurvivable for anything but the hardiest animals. The process — shrubification — has been massive for the moose, which have seen a 400-fold expansion in moose populations in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge since the 1990s. The ramifications could also include a rise in moose predators, like bears, but immediately is having impacts on the communities who live there. Caribou, which have been a source of subsistence for Western Alaskans for centuries, have been on the decline, and the rise of moose in the region — which can supply 500 pounds of meat apiece — might fill that gap.
A new study published Monday found that the melting ice sheet of Greenland will increase global sea levels by 10.6 inches, which is over double the previous estimate. The reason for the increase is “zombie ice,” which is the ice that is still attached to large, thick areas of ice but are no longer being replenished by the parent glaciers. This ice is doomed, and it’s going to raise sea levels even if it doesn’t properly crack off and surrender to thermodynamic inevitability as an iceberg. This is still not the worst-case scenario: The study found it could reach 30 inches.
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