Numlock News: January 16, 2020 • Timber, Super Bowl I, Skywalker
By Walt Hickey
Needs More Gungans
The Rise of Skywalker crossed a billion dollars at the box office after 28 days in cinemas, but just as interesting as how well the movie is doing is how poorly the film is doing in China. On their opening weekends, the first two new Star Wars movies made almost a quarter of a billion stateside, and Skywalker pulled in $177 million in the U.S. in its opening weekend. In China? Force Awakens made $52 million, Last Jedi made $28 million, and Rise of Skywalker made $12 million. Twelve million dollars! Literally last year A Dog’s Way Home made about that much money in its January opening weekend, a film that sounds like a fake movie made up for Joey Tribbiani in Friends. China experiences Star Wars with fresh eyes — the original trilogy came out during the Cultural Revolution and never got seen — and sees it as gloomy, jargony and a bit much. Like you know how you felt when you first heard that self-help author Marianne Williamson was running for president, how a bunch of her fans really loved her, owned a lot of the merch, but all things considered the heady spiritual stuff wasn’t exactly your bag? For China, Star Wars is Marianne Williamson.
Two documentary producers are attempting to raise $1.5 million on Kickstarter with the goal of making footage of the very first Super Bowl available to fans. The tape of the game — a shocking discovery as CBS and NBC did not preserve their footage — was discovered in 2011, has been restored by the Paley Center, and remains in a vault by owner Tory Haupt. Haupt has repeatedly tried to sell the footage to the league, which lowballed him at $30,000 for an artifact believed to be worth an order of magnitude more. The $1.5 million if raised will pay for the footage ($750,000), but also the completion of a documentary (listen, you got to pay the piper on this one) and also a legal fund to fend off the inevitable copyright suit that will be lodged by the league when they try to air it. Theoretically, though, they may be in the clear: since the NFL didn’t preserve pre-existing copies, there’s an argument they don’t own that copyright anymore. So no spoilers, okay? I really think the Giants have a chance in 1966.
Jared Diamond, The Wall Street Journal
New details are emerging about a years-long fraud perpetrated by a Missouri farmer who, in 2016, was responsible for 7 percent of all organic corn in the U.S. and 8 percent of organic soybeans. Impossible numbers to accomplish legitimately, court documents indicated that the falsely marketed organic grain beat $142 million in gross sales from 2010 to 2017, and the scheme may have stretched back as far as 2006 or 2007. Given that organic feed-grade corn is worth double that of conventional corn, the grift can be attractive to pass off normal corn as the organic stuff.
Mike Hendricks, Kansas City Star
A new study found that the average number of drugs approved by the FDA per year rose from 34 in the 1990s to 41 in the 2010s. That’s a rebound from a low of 25 per year in the 2000s, but this isn’t unambiguously great news. Drugs are getting through the FDA process faster, but with less backing. The median review time for standard drug applications was just 10.1 months in 2018, down from the 2.8 year average from 1986 to 1992. Half of new drug approvals were based on one pivotal clinical trial, rather than the two or more that used to be the case. And while this means medications get into patients hands faster, it also means their efficacy is less guaranteed.
Tokyo has a seriously high return rate when it comes to missing items. In 2018, 545,000 identification cards were returned to owners by the Metropolitan Police, 73 percent of those lost. Similar high numbers are seen in mobile phones (83 percent returned) and wallets (65 percent returned). An experiment that dropped phones and wallets in New York and Tokyo found 88 percent of the Tokyo phones were returned to 6 percent of those in New York, and 80 percent of the Tokyo wallets were returned to 10 percent of New York.
William Park and Johanna Airth, BBC
A new study found that planes boarded 28 percent more efficiently when slower passengers were boarded ahead of faster passengers. Currently, the optimal way is passengers board in a series of waves along the entire fuselage of the plane, the “Steffen Method,” which found that such a queuing system was 20 to 30 percent faster than random boarding and twice as fast as back-to-front. The new paper finds that letting slower passengers load first and then sending in faster passengers expedited the whole process, giving slower passengers time to load in.
Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica
The lumber business has struggled in the aftermath of the housing crisis. In Washington State, the volume of lumber produced fell 17 percent from 2014 to 2016 and mills produced a third fewer boards. Europe is already enamored with cross-laminated timber, which is a strengthened wood product designed to supplant concrete and steel in construction. Norway’s got a 280-foot building that swapped in CLT in lieu of steel, and it’s looking promising for the U.S. too: as 11 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from building materials — also cement and concrete manufacture are responsible for 8 percent and steel is 5 percent — CLT will become an increasingly attractive choice.
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