Numlock News: January 25, 2023 • Aquifers, Otters, Justin Bieber
By Walt Hickey
Tabletop gaming projects have coalesced around Kickstarter as a primary means of generating startup capital for the projects. It makes sense; it gives promising games a chance to pitch their wares to a dedicated fanbase and the deliverables are fairly well-understood. Dollars pledged to successful tabletop gaming Kickstarters came in at $236.4 million in 2022, which was down slightly from a peak of $270 million in 2021 but on par with the $236.6 million hauled in during 2020. Despite the 12.4 percent decline — considered to be the result of broader macroeconomic issues — the market’s pretty healthy, with 4,042 successfully funded tabletop crowdfunding rounds, up from 3,520 in 2021. The overall success rate hit 76.3 percent.
Justin Bieber has sold his publishing catalog of songs and artist royalties to Hipgnosis, a fund that’s been on a buying spree of musical property. The deal, which covered 290 songs released prior to 2022, was for slightly more than $200 million, the largest rights sale of anyone from Bieber’s era of artists. Lots of old-timers have been cashing out on their song rights, which tend to be proven quantities in terms of long-term staying power, while buyers have been a bit skittish to buy music from younger musicians because there’s a little more uncertainty regarding how long their music will be in demand. Bieber, though, produced on a level that seemed to put their minds at ease, with 26 songs that hit the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 as well as eight No. 1 hits.
A new study found that the recovery of otters in Alaska’s Pleasant Island may have had significant reverberations across the wolf and deer populations. Otters were wiped out in 1830 in Alaska but have made a recovery in many places, including Pleasant Island near Glacier Bay National Park, as have wolves, which were introduced again in 2013. As of 2015, deer accounted for about 75 percent of the wolves’ diet, but then the deer population crashed. Normally this would mean bad times for the wolves as they ate all their primary food source, but the good news for them came in the form of the otters, which by 2017 were 60 percent of their diet while deer were just 7 percent. In this manner, the food web manages to remain more durable.
The chip industry has been reliant on different proprietary sets of instructions, essentially the manner in which code is understood in binary on the chips. It varies chip to chip, and x86, which is used by Intel, AMD and Arm, by the eponymous company, dominates the market. This means that software developers need to make different versions of apps for different chips, and that’s annoying. The latest thing is RISC-V, which is a publicly available set of instructions, an open standard the most basic version of which has 47 instructions as well as several extensions to other kinds of coding. This lowers barriers of entry into chip design.
A new national survey of 3,757 parents with kids under the age of 18 sought to understand what they’re doing differently than their parents did. Among the list of things that parents were concerned with, 76 percent of parents were at least somewhat worried about their children at some point struggling with anxiety or depression and 74 percent worried about their kid being bullied. Overall, roughly equal amounts of parents said they were trying to raise their children similarly to how they were raised (43 percent) as said they were trying to raise them differently (44 percent), but mothers were 8 percentage points more likely to prefer “differently” than “similarly” while conversely fathers were 7 percentage points more likely to prefer “similarly” over “differently.”
In the Earth’s crust there are vast reservoirs of water that have been cut off from the surface for millennia. In California, beneath the Mojave Desert, there is thought to be as much as 34 million acre-feet of water in an aquifer hundreds of feet underground and extending 700 square miles. It’s called “fossil water,” and it’s not a renewable resource. Unlike groundwater, it can’t be replenished, at least not on the time scale humans are working with, but fossil water is the largest nonfrozen freshwater resource on the planet and in desiccated areas it’s become a compelling source. That question — is it ethical to consume nonrenewable ancient reservoirs of water for the sake of agricultural growth — is a divisive one, and not for the obvious reason that delving too greedily and too deep is is exactly how California develops a balrog problem.
According to federal law, you are safe if you are 600 feet away from a gas transmission pipeline in the event of an explosion, a distance known legally as the “potential impact radius.” According to physics, no you’re not, that could still totally blow you up, what the hell is the government talking about and what crevice did they pull this number out of. The formula was developed as a planning tool, effectively one that would force pipelines to install more durable and thicker pipes when routed through populated areas. It’s based on a set of assumptions including that someone in the blast radius starts running away at 5 miles per hour within five seconds for half a minute to get to shelter, which, no offense but that picture of dexterity and quick thinking is not exactly my mental model for the American people. The National Transportation Safety Board says that the formula significantly underestimates the danger and isn’t consistent with evidence, and wants it changed.
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