Numlock News: January 31, 2022 • Spider-Man, Yu-Gi-Oh, The Great Unconformity
By Walt Hickey
Spider-Man: No Way Home made $11 million domestically from 3,675 cinemas in North America this past weekend, its seventh weekend in theaters, which is only down 17 percent compared to the prior week. It’s now made $735 million domestically and has held as the fourth-highest grossing film in North America, and the question becomes how far it’ll go; it’s $25 million away from Avatar, which made $760 million domestically. It’s unlikely in this universe that it beats the second-place film, Avengers: Endgame with its $858 million, but listen, I hear Spider-Man knows a guy who can maybe get us into a better universe if they're willing to roll the dice here.
From May to September of 2021, a team working with the GPT-3 AI program attempted to win the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest, a recurring contest in which thousands of entries compete to be the best caption of a supplied cartoon. While the bot never did win, the week of June 28, 2021 saw the bot produce the 184th-best caption out of 7,076 entries submitted. Indeed, one issue may very well be that one thing AI isn’t particularly great at is innovative, unexpected approaches that deviate from what you’d expect, and that a big issue with the contest is you’re already competing against thousands of people who don’t need an AI to pluck the low-hanging fruit.
A new study published in Animal Conservation found that when scientists transplanted 47 burrowing owls — a species of “special concern” in California — to a new area from 2017 to 2018, one thing that was key to making the owls comfortable in their new neighborhood was scattering a bunch of white paint that looked like fake owl poop and playing recordings of screech owl calls. Previous experiments found that transplanted owls, when dropped into a new habitat with no evidence that owls previously lived there, would not adapt well to the new territory. At the primary site of the experiment, there were 50 owl chicks as of 2020.
The Heart of the Cards
Since its release on January 18, the new free-to-play Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel game has exploded in popularity, making a splash on Twitch — 51,000 concurrent viewers as of last Thursday — with a peak so far of 262,000 users playing simultaneously on Steam, the fourth-highest game for concurrent players. The new game was an attempt to bring new life to a 20-year-old card game that’s accumulated over 10,000 different cards, no small task, and this new attempt to get cross-platform play going appears to have had some early success. Previous iterations of the game have been derided for being too pay-to-play, or requiring the possession of a cursed Egyptian amulet in order to compete at the highest level, with some players going so far as to criticize organizers for “sealing the soul of my grandfather inside a card” or “dragging multiple teenagers into the Shadow Realm” or “attempting to seize control of KaibaCorp so they can revive their dead wife with holograms.”
A Nevada court will have to decide on the precise nature of Mexican food, as a Las Vegas shopping center landlord is suing a fast-casual Mexican food chain called Cafe Rio, which contends that neighboring restaurant Chop Shop violates a provision in its lease that no other restaurant in a shopping center can make over 10 percent of its sales from Tex-Mex or Mexican food. In 2020, Cafe Rio invoked a lease provision that cut its rent in half for up to a year, arguing that the salad joint was making over a tenth of its business from items like the Viva Mexico Chop Salas, or the Santa Fe chop, or the Chopurrito. At issue for the court will be whether using Mexican ingredients like jalapeños or tortillas makes a dish Mexican food, even if they contain non-Mexican ingredients like cheddar cheese. Chop Shop even claims that burrito bowls are not Mexican food, arguing that they were invented in Colorado by Chipotle within the past 15 years.
Demand for gold is up, and that’s prompting some in California to eye mines once considered economically unviable as potentially worth resuming work. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that 206,000 tons of gold have been mined worldwide, and that there are just 63,000 tons in the ground based on known reserves. That gold has gone unmined because it’s deeper or more difficult to get access to, and potentially more environmentally destructive to get their hands on.
The Great Unconformity is a weird geological situation where 550 million-year-old rock sits right on top of 1.7 billion-year-old rock, with hundreds of millions of years of geological history just up and gone. A new study published last week puts forward evidence backing the idea that glaciers are to blame, finding signs of rock cooling associated with glacial erosion at four geological locations around North America. Essentially, kilometers of rock were eroded away over the course of 60 million to 100 million years. The timing of the Great Unconformity has long compelled scientists because incidentally 550 million years ago is around when modern species began to emerge, and if glacial erosion was freeing up a whole lot of nutrients from rocks that’s not necessarily a bad thing for nascent life.
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