Numlock News: August 5, 2020 • Lava Oceans, Beetles, Bikes
By Walt Hickey
In April, U.S. bicycle sales hit $1 billion, which was up 75 percent year over year. Sales of bikes that were retailing for less than $200 were up over 200 percent, kids’ bikes were up 107 percent and mountain bikes were up 150 percent. The construction of a bike can incorporate parts from up to 50 different suppliers, and from parts to retail it can take 120 days for a bike to get to market. All told, the U.S. bike market — normally $6 billion per year — is in a sprint to get supply to consumers who are avoiding other transportation options or just looking to stretch out their legs. Sure, it’s hard getting a bike, but not as hard as it was back in my day. You couldn’t just buy one from a bike shop, you had to leave town, then talk to a guy in the next town over, and then get a bike voucher, and then schlep all the way back to Cerulean City and only then could you get a bike.
Disney announced their $200 million tentpole would-be summer blockbuster Mulan will be released on Disney+ in countries where movie theaters are unable to open, by which they mean “The United States.” Mulan will be available to rent for $29.99 on September 4 through the app, on top of the $6.99 subscriber fee. In countries where Disney+ is unavailable, Mulan will hit theaters. They also announced another eagerly-awaited delayed 2020 film — Black Widow — will stick to its release date of November 6 by a similar pattern. They also said something about The New Mutants, but I stopped listening at that point, because it had to do with New Mutants.
In the United States, any museum or institution that receives federal funding must return any Native American sacred, patrimonial and funerary objects of cultural heritage, as well as the remains of Indigenous people. Furthermore, it’s a crime to traffic in items taken after 1990. However, there is no law preventing such cultural heritage from being exported, and it’s incredibly difficult to repatriate items that find their way to international auction houses. The Government Accountability Office tracked 1,400 sacred objects from tribal nations that were put up for sale in Paris from 2012 to 2017 alone, half of which sold for a collective $7 million.
The Department of Justice is considering the $7 billion acquisition of Credit Karma by Intuit, the largest online tax prep company in the country. Intuit — particularly though subsidiary TurboTax, which handled 40 million returns in 2019 — has a 67 percent market share in online tax prep, and Credit Karma launched a free tax prep product that specifically competes with TurboTax in 2017. Intuit is considering offering a spinoff of the tax prep product as a concession, but a divestiture may not do the trick because if it’s financially doomed as an independent offering separate from the rest of the Credit Karma product there could be a more significant issue with the purchase.
As of Sunday, 37 percent of U.S. households still have not yet responded to the census questionnaire. There are 500,000 door knockers working to reach those households — they’ll be out in force next week — but the Census Bureau announced it will cut that schedule a month short after a bill in the Senate to extend it stalled. This means that the door knockers and ability of households to respond will conclude at the end of September, not the end of October. The census steers $1.5 trillion in federal spending.
With no fans to ruthlessly mock them or otherwise distract, NBA players are shooting 80.6 percent of their foul shots in the restart bubble, up from 77.1 percent of foul shots before the stoppage. They’re also making more of their corner threes — up to 42.8 percent in-bubble compared to 38.9 percent this season as a whole. This was also seen in soccer, with the Premier League players nailing 10 percent of their free kicks in empty stadiums, compared to 6 percent before the pandemic.
Of the 4,000ish exoplanets discovered orbiting far-flung stars, a particularly interesting group are hot super-Earths, or worlds that are really close to their star and are probably covered in an ocean of lava. These miscellaneous Mustafars are often unusually bright, and astrophysicists would like to know why. Given their proximity to their star, their surfaces are at least 850 kelvins, or 1,070 degrees Fahrenheit. Earth’s albedo — the percentage of light from the sun it reflects — is about 30 percent, but some of these super-Earths are between 40 percent and 50 percent, and given they’re pretty much cooked well-done, we’d anticipate they’re about as reflective as charcoal. The latest experimental research out of MIT also scratches another proposal, namely that they’re reflective because of cooled smooth, glassy lava. But no matter the cocktail of rock, the albedo of a lava ocean was only 10 percent.
A new study of an aquatic beetle Regimbartia attenuata finds it has a unique way of avoiding death by being eaten by frogs. Namely, that when it gets eaten by frogs it simply refuses to die. The study in Current Biology found that 93 percent of the beetles fed to frogs escaped from the, er, designated exit in four hours or less. This is not a passive act on the part of the beetle, not even remotely: they clocked the fastest mouth-to-anus sprint at six minutes. The beetles were completely unfazed by their experiences and suffered no deleterious effects resulting from the journey. The frogs, well, I honestly have no idea how I could recover from that personally, but I’m sure they manage.
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