Numlock News: February 8, 2022 • Beavers, Robots, Pickleball
By Walt Hickey
The Oscar nominations are this morning — just a plug for our Numlock Awards pop-up newsletter, which during award season takes you through the data-driven Oscars forecast and the changes going on at The Academy. Check it out.
Last year was a massive year in the art market, with Sotheby’s seeing $7.3 billion in sales, Christie’s seeing $7.1 billion, and Phillips seeing $1.2 billion in consolidated auction and private sales. It’s a great time to be an auctioneer, with the major houses setting records left and right — it was Sotheby’s best year out of the 277 it’s existed for, and Phillips was up 35 percent over 2019 — buoyed in large part by the ample financial health of the uber-wealthy, and the globalization of that wealth. They’re seeing a huge boon in luxury, not just art: $980 million of Christie’s sales were in jewelry, watches, wine and handbags, on par with the $1 billion brought in by Sotheby’s. Asia — which is now home to 1,149 billionaires — has also fueled the boom.
Last year saw sales of 39,708 industrial robots in North America, a new record. The $2 billion year for industrial robotics is up 14 percent over the previous high logged in 2017, and was 28 percent over the number of robots sold in 2020. Most significant was the expansion of industrial robots beyond the automotive business where they’ve been in long-standing use, as 58 percent of the robots went to non-automotive uses. Two of the largest sectors buying up robots include food and consumer goods, whose purchases were up 29 percent, and the metalworking industry, where they were up 91 percent.
The soundtrack to Encanto held on to the top spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart for its fourth week, with 113,000 equivalent album units moved in the U.S., down only 2 percent week over week — so a solid hold. “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” remains atop the Billboard Hot 100 for its second week, making it the only song in the history of Disney animated features to lead the index for more than one week. “A Whole New World” spent one week at number one in 1993. The song was streamed 37.6 million times in the U.S., saw 3.6 million radio audience impressions and 13,600 downloads. Furthermore, this is the first time a soundtrack and a song from that soundtrack have simultaneously held the No. 1 position on their respective rankings since Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile, which much like Encanto is also a movie about a family going to great lengths to avoid losing their home through the power of music.
The new hot sport across the country is pickleball, which is a sport that combines tennis, ping pong and badminton. In San Francisco, it’s incredibly hard to get time on a court: The city has 18 indoor and 40 outdoor pickleball courts, and they’re booked pretty much solid. For instance, the Goldman Tennis Center is home to five pickleball courts and 16 tennis courts. From October to December of last year, those tennis courts were booked 58 percent of the time, while the pickleball courts were booked 95 percent of the time.
A new study looked at the working patterns of around 15 million GitHub users to figure out how the shift to work-from-home broke their personal work-life balance, comparing the commit patterns seen in 2020 with those seen from 2015 to 2019. In the years before the pandemic, weekends accounted for 20 percent of working hours, a figure that jumped to 24 percent at the onset of the pandemic, though eventually drifting back towards the previous years’ pattern. Initially, remote work caused users to work anywhere from 15 percent to 20 percent more on average, with India seeing a 30 percent to 40 percent jump, which trended back toward pre-pandemic levels by July.
North America was once home to 200 million beavers, a figure that crashed down to between 10,000 and 100,000 beavers in the late nineteenth century. The end of the fur trade rejuvenated numbers a bit, and today there are around 15 million beavers. Many consider them a nuisance — they can flood neighborhoods and fell trees — but evidence increasingly points to the idea that beavers are critical stewards of forests. By building dams, they spread rivers out across the floodplains, which can help protect areas from the worst of forest fires. Beaver dams are so successful that even in regions where the species is still rebounding, land managers are installing structures called beaver dam analogues (BDAs) and post-assisted log structures (PALS) to help wetlands form.
Researchers interested in the health of 250,000 mountain glaciers — an area encompassing 98 percent of the areas of the Earth that were covered in glaciers at the time — analyzed 812,000 pairs of satellite images to discern how they were holding up. The good news is that the Himalayas have 37 percent more ice than past surveys had estimated. The bad news is that the Andes contain 27 percent less than originally thought. That’s positive news for the 8 million who live in the parts of the Himalayas that rely on meltwater, but rough for the 4 million in the basins of the Andes who might be facing down water shortages well earlier than previously understood.
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