Numlock News: December 13, 2021 • West Side Story, Excel, Wood Pulp
By Walt Hickey
Plague On Both Their Houses
Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, a charming period piece called West Side Story that updates the bard's iconic and yet tragic romance to set it in New York of all places, missed the mark at the box office this weekend, pulling in $10.5 million from 2,820 theaters. Much as the play upon which it is based — brilliantly updated into a musical here, believe it or not — hinges upon the tragical ramifications of an individual waylaid by plague, so too did life imitate art and the Omicron variant suppressed turnout. Given its $100 million budget, the concern is it may have some difficulties making it back at the box office, but that said, musicals tend to have legs, so all might not be lost. It'll all come down to the late-December The Tragedy of Macbeth, to see if the Shakespeare Cinematic Universe fandom is bored of these continuous adaptations of the books.
I Woke Up At 7:30 For This
Sunday saw Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton in the finale of the Formula One season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. This season of Formula One — best known as the thing that your friend who religiously follows the Premier League got into after Ted Lasso made that hobby too mainstream — saw a shocker of an ending which has Mercedes, Hamilton's team, filing a pair of protests over the officials botching the handling of the final lap. After leading in 51 of 58 laps, an unrelated crash meant that the safety car came onto the track, and a last-minute decision from race organizers to resume the race on a final lap meant Verstappen had a chance to overcome Hamilton. This is the first time Red Bull, which purchased a high-performance engine company from Honda to compete in the sport, has won a championship since 2013.
In other sports that a bunch of the readers of this newsletter definitely watched, Australian Andrew "NGOAT" Ngai defeated Canada's Michael Jarman in the Financial Modeling World Cup, a high-stakes Excel tournament funded by Microsoft to the tune of $10,000 in prizes. Qualifications began in mid-November, when 128 contenders from around the world battled to make the finals in a tournament that seeks to identify the best competitive financial modelers, throwing one- to five-page case studies at the modelers and a number of questions that must be solved. In the final, up for grabs were 1,000 points that could be claimed by either side, most points wins: Ngai won with a score of 734-280.
Fly Like Paper Get High Like Planes
Nippon Paper, a major producer of paper in Japan, successfully demonstrated a battery made of wood pulp. It was a short demonstration, to be clear: the 20-square-centimeter, 0.15-gram chunk of cellulose nanofibers was able to power a 3-volt, 0.025-amp LED bulb for seven seconds, meaning the battery had an energy density of around 1 watt-hour per kilogram. For perspective, that's one two-hundredth the amount of a lithium-ion battery, but the point is that lithium, cobalt and nickel are a gigantic pain to obtain compared to wood pulp, which there is a pretty significant and notoriously renewable amount of. The company's Fuji Innovative Materials Research Laboratory hopes to develop this proof of concept into practical use by 2030.
Oh No Why On Earth Are People Cutting The Cord What Could Be Causing This
Where cable was once home to must-see dramas, reality television and just an overall variety of content, now it's dominated by one thing: political news and opinion. In 2016, political news and opinion was 57 percent of the top 5,000 cable programs according to total viewers. In 2021, political news and opinion was 83 percent of the top 5,000. While the percentage of live sports in the top 5,000 has stayed pretty much flat — 8 percent in 2016 vs. 7 percent in 2021 — that 26 percentage point gain had to come from somewhere, mainly the nearly complete eradication of dramas (down from 284 programs in the top 5,000 to just 43 programs) and a wipeout of reality (833 programs in the top 5,000 in 2016 crashed to 204 in 2021), but also wrestling, kids programming and more.
Let’s All Go To The Lobby
As of December 3, there were around 4,900 U.S. movie theaters open, which was only 88 percent of the 5,500 theaters open on the eve of the pandemic in 2020. Of those closed cinemas, around half of them had three screens or fewer. What that specifically means is that the theaters that haven't reopened are predominantly in smaller, under-served areas that can only sustain a small cinema, or are the independent, locally-owned movie theaters that had somehow endured through the multiplex consolidation of the past decades. Theaters on the East Coast have been particularly slow to recover, one reason that cinemas this year will bring in about $4 billion in ticket revenue, well below the $11.9 billion in 2019.
Something Heady and Threatening
There are four chemicals classified as second-generation anticoagulents: brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone. They're incredibly effective rat poisons, so effective that they're also incredibly effective rat-eater poisons, and as a result the EPA says companies aren't allowed to sell them through traditional consumer retail channels because they're simply too dangerous to unleash on the environment through naive consumers. However, they're all over the place on the internet, and as shopping moves online that means that dangerous, environmentally destructive chemicals are getting into the hands of people not trained on how to deploy them in a way that's safe for hawks, falcons, eagles and more. The global anticoagulent rodenticide market is projected to grow from $3.8 billion in 2020 to $5.8 billion in 2027, with the U.S. accounting for a third of sales. Rats are a serious problem — they spoil around 20 percent of the world's food supply and threaten disease outbreaks —but these specific rodenticides are long-lived, and accumulate within the food chain, and studies have shown them showing up nearly constantly in dead hawks and owls.
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Correction: An earlier edition misspelled Lewis Hamilton’s first name.
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