Numlock News: February 2, 2024 • Demon Slayer, Chipotle, Valentine’s Day
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
Strava, the exercise tracking app, and Chipotle teamed up to create a competition in six different cities where a 300-meter segment next to a Chipotle was chosen and then whichever Strava user ran that designated length the most times in the month of January would win a year’s supply of Chipotle burritos. Some cities turned out in a reasonable way: New York’s winner ran the stretch 832 times, and Chicago’s winner ran it 613 times. Then there were the genuinely impressive performances: Denver’s winner did the run 1,041 times, beating out second place with 898 attempts, the Columbus winner shattered the competition with 1,000 runs along the stretch, crushing a second place with 376 runs, and the winner from Washington, D.C., hit the stretch 1,345 times, averaging 44 runs of it per day. The most impressive was L.A., where the winning score was 369 attempts. Why is that impressive? Because five people tied for it, realizing that ties in the city contest meant everyone wins, and they colluded to tie for the top score in their city with all five of them getting a year of burritos.
Godzilla Minus One was a surprise hit, especially given the shoestring budget for the film, reported as $15 million. That thrift was nevertheless rewarded with an Oscar nomination for best visual effects, all the more remarkable given that the movie had just 610 VFX shots, compared to thousands in many other films. The 35-member team accomplished the task in eight months, and over 100 of the VFX shots were water effects.
An analysis of 30 million records from 2018 to 2023 that came from the daily forecasts of wind energy operators in the U.K. found that many wind farms overstated the amount of energy they planned to generate, in an attempt to get the grid operator to pay them not to generate power lest they overwhelm the grid with too much energy. By overestimating output, the farms could be paid to not generate power they weren’t planning on generating anyway, in effect. Of 121 wind farms in the analysis, 40 overstated output by 10 percent or more, and 27 overstated output by 20 percent or more. Those 40 farms have been overpaid by an estimated £51 million ($65 million) since 2018.
According to Circana BookScan, the top-selling graphic novel for adults in 2023 was the manga Demon Slayer Kimetsu No Yaiba Vol. 1, which sold 148,468 copies last year. That narrowly edged out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin, which sold just a few hundred less. Manga volumes dominate the top 20 list, with 16 of the titles being manga. On the kids graphic novel side, it’s even more unanimous: All of the top 20 are from Scholastic’s Graphix imprint, 13 of which are by Dav Pilkey, and 10 of those are Dog Man books.
A new survey found that just 38 percent of Americans intend to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, a figure that only manages to rise to 53 percent of people who are in a relationship. Let’s hope for their sake that the bulk of the 25 percent of respondents who are in a relationship who claimed they were not celebrating Valentine’s Day are in a relationship with each other, and not any of the 53 percent who think they will be celebrating it. Further adding confusion to the mix, 27 percent of adults said that Valentine’s Day is only for romantic relationships, while 60 percent said that it’s for both romantic and platonic relationships, so oh man are there going to be some mixed signals fired off in two weeks or what.
The scientific consensus is that the world has been warming, it’s caused by humans, and it’s approaching a threshold that will signal serious issues. The issue is establishing the baseline, and discerning whether the world has warmed by 1.34 C or 1.54 C compared to the 1850-1900 average. That’s not in question because of what we know about recent warming — that’s pretty much settled science — but rather figuring out what exactly seawater temperatures actually were when such data became systematically cataloged in the late 1800s. Ocean temperature records were measured because a superintendent at the U.S. Naval Observatory wanted the data to compete with other countries, and offered naval charts to captains if they collected such water temperature data while out at sea and handed it over to the Navy later. Other countries followed suit, and now NOAA in the U.S. and the U.K. Met Office maintain those records. Ensuring that data is properly interpreted is the key issue, and more data may help; the U.K. has 6 million pages that have not yet been digitized, but resources are scant.
eBay agreed to pay $59 million to settle claims that it was responsible for selling thousands of pill presses, many of which were sold to people eventually charged with drug-related crimes. The feds allege that the pill presses were used at times to produce counterfeit drugs, in some cases laced with adulterants such as fentanyl. The Controlled Substances Act requires companies to keep records of sales of this kind of equipment, and the government alleged that eBay did not do that. eBay denied the allegations but paid to settle the case to avoid a potentially long and costly litigation.
This week in the Sunday edition🔓, I spoke to James Temple, who wrote “How one mine could unlock billions in EV subsidies” for MIT Technology Review. This story was fascinating to me, and was the first in-depth story about the implications of the incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act that really illustrated to me how this thing works and how this stuff really matters. James can be found at MIT Technology Review and on Bluesky and Threads.
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