Numlock News: January 24, 2024 • Atomic Knot, RAW, Wetherspoons
By Walt Hickey
New York readers: extremely exciting event you should come to! I’m doing an event at NeueHouse with Jeff Yang called “How Movies Make Us” tomorrow January 25. It’s free, but you need to RSVP. You might remember Jeff from this fall when I interviewed him about his excellent book, The Golden Screen: The Movies That Made Asian America. It will be a lot of fun; doors open at 6 p.m., so RSVP today and come!
Researchers have successfully produced the newest record-breaking smallest knot ever, according to a paper published in Nature. The knot was made up of only 54 atoms, and was produced accidentally while the researchers were attempting to create metal acetylides. One of the results of the reaction was a chain of atoms that was knotted into a trefoil knot. The previous record for smallest knot was a 69-atom knot produced on purpose in 2020. The team of the 54-atom knot insists they do not understand how this happened and do not know if it’s possible to make a smaller knot. This is great, because the lack of suitable knots at the molecular level was the main reason I have not launched my new line of microscopic shoes.
Lost & Found
In 2022, 53,491 archaeological objects were found by enthusiasts in the United Kingdom, mostly metal detector fans, according to the latest report from the British Museum’s database of items voluntarily reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The project as a whole has logged 1.7 million objects, and of those, thousands have been identified from prehistoric, Roman and medieval sites. These include money boxes, coins, a 3,000-year-old gold dress fastener and an extremely cool ivory carving with a woman’s face on one side and a skull on the other that was found in the Thames and is believed to be over 500 years old.
Netflix has inked a deal with WWE in its first major live sports event package to broadcast the weekly Monday Night RAW series of soaps. The deal begins January 2025 and is for $5 billion over the next 10 years. After 31 years on linear television and over 1,600 episodes since its 1993 debut, the show is for the first time moving to a streaming service, and with it is also coming all WWE shows and specials outside of the United States, which for non-U.S. viewers means that SmackDown and NXT, two of the other soap operas in the company’s schedule, will be on Netflix as well. The show trends on social media pretty much every week, it’s one of the best shows on television in the 18-49 demo, and it logs 17.5 million viewers a year on USA Network.
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A new study published in Economics of Transportation analyzed NHTSA crash data from 2016 to 2021, and found that larger vehicles — and taller vehicles — were more likely to kill pedestrians. This is bad news, because larger and taller vehicles are extremely popular. According to the analysis, 8.5 percent of pedestrians hit by a sedan or hatchback were killed, a figure that jumps to 12.4 percent among full-sized SUVs. The study found that for every 4-inch increase in the front end height of a vehicle, there is a commensurate 28 percent increase in pedestrian death.
Kelp forests are a crucial part of marine ecosystems today, but kelp hasn’t been around forever. How long exactly kelp has existed for has been a bit of an open question, mostly because it’s tough to find kelp fossils. Fossils form when the hard parts of animals and plants are buried in sediment and replaced by rock, but kelp to some notoriety is a big community of squishy brown algae, and when it dies is pretty quickly devoured without much hard stuff remaining to fossilize. A single fossil specimen from California put the estimate for complex kelp emerging at 13 million to 14 million years ago. A new study published in PNAS uses a new fossil of a bivalve shell with tendrils imprinted on it that seemed to be evidence of an ancient kelp organism securing itself to the shell. Dating that fossil gives a new estimate for when kelp entered the seas: at least 32 million years ago.
Wetherspoons The Game
J D Wetherspoon is the largest chain of pubs in Britain, with about 800 taverns in its network around the country, which has a notoriously vibrant pub culture. The company rolled out an app that allows people to buy drinks and input a location rather than simply rely on the location services of a cellular device. This feature has made Spoons the venue of a vibrant social game, where members of a Facebook group post their pub, their table number and some photos of their group in hopes that one of the half-million members will buy them a round from anywhere in the country. Some £1 million of business to Wetherspoon is estimated to have flowed through the page.
Some researchers think that NASA is too down on space-based solar power, which has the distinct advantage of being above any cloud cover and useful 24 hours per day rather than just by day. It also has the distinct disadvantage of being in space, which is very expensive to get to and to get back from. The cost of a 2-gigawatt orbiting power station, according to NASA, would have a price tag of $276 billion. That’s probably the wrong amount of money for 2 gigawatts of power. But most of that price — 71 percent — would be in the costs of launching stuff to space, specifically 5,900 tons of stuff, over 2,300 rocket launches. If the cost to get one ton of material can be brought down, this math starts to change. The Falcon 9 rocket, since 2010, had lowered launch costs from $7,000 per kilogram down to $3,000 per kilogram, and NASA thinks the upcoming Starship rocket will bring that down further to $1,000 per kilogram. The Europeans think that’s a bit high — the ESA launch cost estimates are $300 to $500 per kilogram — and the industry estimates it could get down to $200 per kilogram.
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