Numlock News: January 5, 2021 • Lightning Bolts, Cassette Tapes, Rhinos
By Walt Hickey
A new study has found that lightning bolts shine brighter when the water they strike is saltier — a finding that not only illustrates some bedrock electrochemical principles, but also would make a really solid embroidery throw pillow, if you ask me. About 90 percent of lightning bolts strike continental land, but the bright superbolts are more likely to be found at sea. Under laboratory conditions, water from the Dead Sea — which is 680 times saltier than water sampled from the Sea of Galilee — produced bolts that were 40 times brighter than those induced over the less salty water. Further, the bolts generated from the Sea of Galilee water were 1.5 times brighter than those formed over wet soil.
The United States government possess an enormous trove of Nazi art collected during the Second World War and its aftermath, and it’s held at an Army facility at Fort Belvoir. Captain Gordon Gilkey’s efforts at the end of World War II led to the collection of 8,722 works — paintings, sketches, drawings and more — by 369 German artists, produced for the Third Reich. This complicated compendium has shuffled around the government since, with about 1,600 pieces deemed harmless and returned to Germany in 1950. In 1982, a law was passed that returned all but 327 pieces of Nazi art, plus another 259 pieces kept for educational reasons. Those 327 works overtly glorified the Nazi government and still remain in U.S. Army hands. The Germans don’t want them, and the Potsdam agreement only allowed the U.S. to seize the works, not destroy them, so they’ll likely continue to exist in some military warehouse indefinitely.
According to BPI, a British record label body, 155 million albums were bought or streamed in the U.K. in 2020, an 8.2 percent increase over 2019. For the first time since 1973, not one album in the past 12 months was certified platinum, and just 16 singles went platinum, down from 27 in 2019 and 33 in 2018. While CD sales continued to slide — 16 million discs sold, half of the figure moved in 2018, and a fragment of the 163.4 million CDs sold at peak in 2004 — other physical media was doing alright thanks to incorrigible hipsters and promos. Vinyl sales hit 4.8 million units, up from 4.3 million in 2019, and sales of cassettes nearly doubled to 156,542 tapes sold, the highest figure since 2003.
A Morning Consult poll found that just 51 percent of adults aged 18 to 23 plan to watch Super Bowl LV, which is significantly lower than the 60 percent of adults overall who indicated they plan to watch the game. This is a persistent pattern, with Gen Z respondents also indicating they were less likely to have watched last year’s Super Bowl. Despite the bold and innovative choice to include The Weeknd in the halftime show and also a solid chunk of the player base technically qualifying as Gen Z, it appears the NFL has made a significant tactical error in choosing their broadcast partner as, now let me see if I have this right, CBS? CBS is like anti-TikTok. I’m 30 and I am barely aware of CBS. For Gen Z, airing something on CBS is like airing it as a RKO Picture, or distributing it as a daguerreotype sent by pony express, it’s functionally faxing the game. CBS makes LFO look like BTS. A Finnish man playing Among Us with a congresswoman will probably post better worldwide numbers from the youths than the Super Bowl this year. That’s just the way of things now, and the wind rises and we must try to live, man. Anyway, that’s what you get for airing a peanut snuff film on national television last year.
About 5,600 black rhinoceros roam Southern Africa, down from 100,000 in 1960 but slightly rebounded from 2,500 in 1995. Scientists have historically tried to track these populations by strapping GPS devices on to their necks, ankles or horns, but this method has a number of logistical difficulties. Namely, darting, drugging and tagging a rhinoceros is not exactly the most enviable job in science, so an alternative way of tracking the beasties is always a welcome proposal. A new study published in PeerJ uses smartphone photos of rhino footprints to identify the animals from a distance. The cracks in the rhino’s feet are as identifiable as a fingerprint, meaning that potentially researchers will be able to monitor the whereabouts of the animals with local help and without needing to drug any local megafauna.
Chicago’s 60620 ZIP code is home to approximately 160 small businesses that were eligible for a $10,000 disaster relief grant under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. However, the Small Business Administration doled out 3,824 grants to businesses in the ZIP, many to addresses located on residential streets. To get the grant, the key was that the business had to have 10 or more people on payroll, and that qualification seems to have been somewhat under-analyzed. Similar pockets of industry have been found across the country, such as a fire department in Mount Vernon where at least 11 members were approved for the $10,000 grants and $150,000 to two poultry farms in apartment 13D in a high rise in Greenwich Village. Of 21,000 grant recipients who identified as drivers for Amazon Flex, Uber or Lyft, 3 percent got more than the $1,000 they could receive as a sole independent contractor, and 217 got $10,000. The number of $10,000 grants approved should have been enough for two out of every three eligible businesses, but across the country it seems the money did not go where intended.
Games had a great year last year, with six of the largest publishers — Zynga, Nexon, Ubisoft, Take-Two, EA and Activision — set to post a combined revenue of $24 billion, which would be up 19 percent from 2019. That year, the same basket of game companies saw sales dip 3 percent. What’s more, the new Xbox and PlayStation consoles rolling out nationwide are set to make 2021 even better, per expectations, with the projection from analyst FactSet looking at $26.7 billion this year.
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