Numlock News: July 1, 2021 • Comets, Titanic, Rescue
By Walt Hickey
Never Let Go Til We’re Gone
Deep sea currents and bacteria known to consume hundreds of pounds of iron per day have caused the Titanic to begin to deteriorate rapidly at its resting place at the bottom of the Atlantic. A new mission to the ship — discovered in 1985 after sinking in 1912 — seeks to quantify the degree of that deterioration over time. Since discovery, the forward mast has collapsed, the crow’s nest is gone, and the gym near the grand staircase has caved in. The mission — operated by OceanGate — is being funded by bringing about 40 people on as tourists who will operate sonar equipment and do other tasks in a five-person submersible. The tourists are paying between $100,000 and $150,000 apiece.
Despite deftly evading the Sheriff of Nottingham for years, trading app Robinhood has been fined $57 million by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and has been ordered to pay $13 million in restitution to clients affected by outages and misleading communications in March 2020. That was when the market was really volatile at the onset of the pandemic, and lots of people who got involved in margin trading or options got in steep trouble using the app. According to SEC filings, Robinhood had set aside $26.6 million for settlements and this fine, which is the highest ever levied by FINRA.
In 2014, a comet was spotted at about 30 astronomical units — or, 30 times the distance between the Earth and the sun — away. Today, the comet’s at 20 AU, and it’ll come the closest to the sun at 10.9 AU in January 2031, which would be at about the orbit of Saturn. It’s an exciting development because the latest estimate is that the comet will take 3 million years to orbit the Sun, and will travel to 0.9 light-years away before turning around once again to mount a return. It’s a big one too, something between 100 and 370 kilometers in size. Hale-Bopp, which swung around in 1997, was by comparison 60 kilometers across.
A number of channels on YouTube have scored millions of views by staging an animal in danger and then acting out a rescue. In one of hundreds of the videos found by National Geographic, a Burmese python is attempting to strangle a gibbon before an individual seemingly miraculously stumbles upon the scene with high definition video equipment, freeing the primate. The channel with that video published nine such “rescues” in May 2021 alone for its 83,000 subscribers. It’s the volume that’s the giveaway; actual bona fide wildlife photography is strenuously captured after an enormous amount of labor, not on the order of nine a month; incidentally, several specific animals — both “predator” and “prey” alike — have been seen across multiple videos, and are commonly filmed in danger well outside their traditional habitats. The incentives are also clear for the abusers: YouTube’s traditional reporting system didn’t lead to the removal of the videos until a reporter from a large national magazine came knocking.
Out of 1,170 unique songs that have appeared in the Billboard year-end Hot 100 list from 2008 to 2020, just eight songs — or 0.7 percent of the hits — mention a lyric in which the singer professes a romantic attraction to a person of the same sex, think like Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” of 2008 or Lady Gaga’s 2009 “Poker Face.” This is not for a lack of music alluding to a relationship; in the past two years alone, 19 out of the 20 songs that constituted the top 10 in each year alluded to some kind of relationship in their lyrics, with nine of them explicitly about an opposite-gender relationship. Looking forward, it’s a pretty good bet Lil Nas X’s “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” will make an appearance on the Hot 100 Year-End, bringing us up to nine songs over 14 years.
The Thames in London was once a thriving habitat for glass eels, which are the juvenile stage of the European eel. In the 18th century, the eels hit the menu, serving as a solid working-class lunch. Over the past 25 years, thanks to dams on the river, climate change and overfishing, the population of glass eels is down 99 percent across the U.K. and Europe, and today are fetching €800 per kilogram, no longer the cheap snack they once were. A new analysis of the barriers in these rivers found that while there are far more than originally believed, most are vestigial and can be removed as they no longer serve any actual purpose.
Sims Municipal Recycling, a recycling center in New York City, sorts through around 1,000 tons of glass, metal, plastic and paper per day. One thing that can’t be recycled that nevertheless people think can be recycled: bowling balls. The proprietor estimates they receive approximately 1,200 bowling balls per year from residential recycling in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. A modern polyester-coated bowling ball can endure 10 to 15 years of daily play at an alley, though pros prefer a polyurethane-coated ball that’s made with a polyester resin that is not actually recyclable. Their lifetime is vastly shorter, generally one ball lasting one season for pros.
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