Numlock News: February 5, 2024 • Argylle, Hobby Tunneling, FIFA
By Walt Hickey
Argylle just had the single worst opening for a pattern-based movie since Stripes opened to $6.2 million in 1981, pulling in $18 million domestically and $17.3 million from overseas. That would not be terrible for an action-infused comedy, if not for the fact that this film somehow cost $200 million to $250 million to make. It’s the third Apple film — after Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon — to see a theatrical release, as the tech titan dabbles in releasing its streaming network’s films in cinemas before putting them on Apple TV+. That does manage to change the math a bit, as the movies may have a high price tag but see a bit of a boost from getting a proper release and do not live and die merely on opening week alone.
Russia is seeing a spike in aircraft trouble among its domestic airlines as the sanctions that ensued from its invasion of Ukraine make it difficult or impossible to obtain reliable sources of repair parts for the aircraft in its commercial fleet. There were 74 safety incidents among local operators in Russia last year, up from 36 in 2022, and safety incidents are happening 9.9 times for every 100,000 departures as of last year, up from 4.5 times per 100,000 departures in 2019. The largest private airline in Russia, S7, has about 20 percent of its aircraft grounded. It could be worse: There’s a Ural Airlines A320 ditched in a field outside of Omsk in Siberia after a hydraulics problem forced the pilots to bring it down on some farmland, and there’s little indication the airline will be able to fix it or move it anytime soon.
FIFA has revealed the schedule for the 2026 World Cup, which will take place jointly in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Sixteen cities will host games, and it’s been revealed that 78 of the 104 games in total will be in the United States. Most notably, FIFA decided to award the World Cup Final to MetLife Stadium, which is in a swamp in northern New Jersey and was technically the “New York/New Jersey” bid for reasons that are not entirely clear. It beat out Dallas and Los Angeles for the final, but as a consolation prize Dallas will be getting one of the semifinal games. Given that it’s FIFA and that it’s northern New Jersey, it’s absolutely possible that this World Cup will be the Manhattan Project of grift, where the finest minds in political corruption convene to produce a once-in-a-generation technical leap in the art of nepotism, patronage, influence peddling and self-dealing.
Straw is being considered as a cheap and extremely effective insulation material, as a Slovakian firm called EcoCocon constructs a demonstration building in West Yorkshire to prove out that timber-framed panels 40 centimeters thick that are stuffed with a dense mass of chopped straw have potential as a cheap building material. The panels have an insulating effect and the argument is that it’s possible to build a house at a price point of £2,000 per square meter. The U.K. produces 9 million tonnes of straw as an agricultural byproduct, enough to build 436,000 three-bedroom detached houses.
For the first time on record, over half of U.S. students were dropped off at school or drove to school in a private vehicle, with 53 percent of students getting to school that way in 2022. The pandemic provoked a crunch in bus drivers, and many municipalities either cut service or began providing financial incentives for parents to drive their kids to school rather than running a bus service. The effect has been seen most significantly among families where at least one parent has a bachelor’s degree or higher: Prior to the pandemic, 55 percent of kids from those households were driven to school, which as of 2022 stands at 62 percent, and most of that growth came at the expense of riding the bus.
Interest in the hobby tunneling crowd — situations where enthusiasts, many of whom have achieved some degree of notoriety on platforms like TikTok, embark on ambitious if ill-fated amateur tunneling operations on their properties — is on the rise. The number of Reddit users in the /r/digging community is up 325 percent since January 2022, an indication that, even if the number of hobby diggers is not on the rise, the rubberneckers interested in watching their escapades is up. The more specific /r/hobbytunneling subreddit, which caters to the more involved excavations, is up 4,800 percent over the same period. While compelling to watch, the hobby does have the minor setback that in many places around the world it is absolutely not legal to build a wildcat mine in the suburbs.
A new study argues that clownfish, the brightly colored tropical fish known for their bright white stripes and orange body, may have some basic ability to count, a talent that they may use to identify fish based on the number of those stripes. The study argues that clownfish appear to be able to count to three. Clownfish tend to try to chase off other, unfamiliar clownfish while behaving less aggressively toward other kinds of fish. The study was carried out by placing 120 young clownfish with three stripes into aquariums three at a time, and then after a week, adding a fourth “fish” which was a resin decoy that had one, two or three stripes. The fish attacked the three-striped decoys — the outsider fish of their own species — 10 times as often as they attacked fish with no stripes, twice as frequent as attacks on single-striped fish, and 1.3 times as frequent as on two-striped “fish.”
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