Numlock News: February 22, 2022 • Secrets, Horseshoe Crabs, Uncharted
By Walt Hickey
A new genomic analysis tried to figure out what the whole deal with horseshoe crabs are. They’ve existed in their current form for hundreds of millions of years, and had long been considered kind of their own deal, not really particularly related to anything still kicking these days, the last of its breed. A new paper published in Molecular Biology and Evolution argues that they're actually arachnids, and suggests that the evolutionary development of arachnids is more complicated and weird than previously understood. According to the paper, the common ancestor of all arachnids — let’s call her mitochondrial Ungoliant — is believed to have come ashore 600 million years ago.
The Felicity Ace, which caught on fire off the coast of the Azores in the Atlantic and was abandoned by its crew, was carrying 3,965 vehicles from Volkswagen Group, including VW, Audi, Lamborghini and about 1,100 Porsches. The actuaries had a busy weekend, and the total value of goods on the ship is estimated to be $438 million, of which $401 million was for vehicles. As of Monday, the fire was still burning. Congratulations to all the people who will get an incredible deal on a Porsche in six months on Craigslist, only to find it smells like burned kelp and a Richmond ashtray.
Uncharted starring Tom Holland made $52 million from 4,275 cinemas in North America over the three-day weekend, a solid start but given its $120 million budget the path to profitability remains fraught with peril. It pulled in $44.1 million from Friday to Sunday, which is good enough to top this week’s chart. The movie entered its second week in multiple overseas markets, and so far has generated $139 million worldwide. The franchise has been in development so long that Mark Wahlberg, who plays the aged, older character of Sully, was originally attached to Holland’s Nathan Drake.
A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology tried to find out why people reveal secrets they’ve been told. They constructed nine groups of 150 participants each and told them about different secrets, the nature of those secrets — could they hurt someone, was the action in the secret intentional, things like that — and then they asked whether they supported disclosing the secret. Secrets that were most likely to be revealed involved a specific lie (46 percent would reveal), a secret that involved harm done to someone or oneself (40 percent), illegal behavior (35 percent) and drug use (34 percent). Situations where people were less likely to goss about the secret involved were when a person had already been punished for the secret action, if the secret was unintentional, or if it was a surprise event like a party or a planned surprise, when only 18 percent of people might reveal it. It’s encouraging to me that about one in five people will rat out a secret of even the most innocent nature, because that evidence alone is enough for me to invalidate virtually all conspiracy theories involving more than a couple people keeping their trap shut.
Child Tax Credit
The bill providing financial relief during the pandemic that passed in early 2021 involved a tax credit payment to parents as part of an expanded child tax credit. Those payments ended in December, and the effect has been immediate. As a result, the monthly child poverty rate increased from 12.1 percent in December to 17 percent in January, and pushed another 3 million kids below the poverty line. The monthly payments delivered up to $300 per child on a sliding scale, with the Census Bureau finding most families used the money for food, rent, utilities and to pay off debt. A move to extend the program was stymied in Congress.
The Guiera senegalensis shrub had long been considered a pest to Senegal’s agriculture, and a campaign to rip it from the fields began in earnest under French rule in the 1950s. Today, many farmers burn it off the field before planting season. New evidence argues that this is, in fact, a disastrous agricultural policy, and rather that Senegal’s farmers would be better off planting more of the weed. In testing fields, millet grown in shrub-filled fields thrived compared to fields where millet alone was grown. Millet plots that were grown alongside shrubs were ground to produce 105 percent to 128 percent yield increases. The reason for this is the shrubs, which grew in the arid environment, protect soil from degradation, locking in topsoil and drawing water up from deeper ground to the topsoil.
The Internal Revenue Service is dealing with a grueling backlog, with 23.5 million tax returns and documents left to handle in its inventory as of early February. The agency has moved to reassign 1,200 workers to deal with the unprocessed documents. All the refund returns that the agency got before April of 2021 have been processed provided they had no errors, but that said, reading between the lines here the IRS still has some paperwork filed as early as last April to work thorough, with tax time right around the corner again. Paper returns remain incredibly annoying for the IRS: They have to be transcribed line by line by the agency.
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