Numlock News: July 13, 2021 • Puppies, Biscoff Cookies, Super Mario 64
By Walt Hickey
Super Mario 64
Eyebrows have been raised over a $1,560,000 auction sale of a copy of Super Mario 64 because while it’s certainly a solid piece of memorabilia — graded 9.8 A++, factory sealed — that is double the record price for a single video game at auction. That record was incidentally set just days earlier when a copy of The Legend of Zelda sold for $870,000. Interestingly, the copy of Super Mario 64 isn’t the rarest — it sold 12 million copies — or the oldest game in such condition to sell, and yet it did. A 9.4 A+ sealed copy sold for just $38,400 in January, making the jump to $1.5 million just all around weird. The buyer is not public, but, I mean, who do we know that has it in for Mario, is impossibly wealthy from their industrial pursuits, and lives a life of leisure playing tennis and golf constantly — Wario!
Who’s A Good Dog?
A new study in Current Biology sought to determine how much of dogs’ innate sense of human gesture and communication exists in wolves. The scientists put 44 dog puppies and 37 wolf puppies between five and 18 weeks old through a battery of tests and challenges that sought to figure out how well they jived with humans. One task entailed a person pointing at a bowl and seeing if the dogs or wolves would go to eat the food in the bowl. Another task found dogs were 30 times more likely to approach an unknown human than wolf puppies, and they made more eye contact in the process. The results add to the evidence that dogs have, over the course of domestication, evolved some capacity to comprehend human gesture that their lupine counterparts haven’t to the same extent.
An average 29.85 million people in the U.K. watched the Euro Championship match between Italy and England, with a peak of 30.95 million viewers. That makes it the single most-watched broadcast since the funeral of Diana in 1997, significantly higher than the royal wedding. It’s among the largest audience in the history of broadcasting in the U.K., and may be the most watched soccer event: the highest ratings for a match prior to this were for the 1990 semifinal between West Germany and England in the World Cup, which logged 25.2 million viewers. Like most successful British television programming, I can’t wait for the American network adaptation in a few years that strips out all the dry humor, extends the concept to the point of incredulity, and throws in an unearned happy ending.
Hydropower made up 17 percent of California’s electricity mix in 2019, which means that droughts, which are pretty crummy all around to begin with, can actually jeopardize the overall grid in the state. With Lake Oroville at less than half capacity, the hydropower plant there is poised to go offline for the first time ever. Compared to the first four months of 2020, hydroelectric generation was down 37 percent in the same period this year; compared to the first four months of 2019, it was down fully 71 percent.
Biscoff cookies, the ones you get on airplanes, are back with a vengeance now that air travel has begun a gradual recovery. Known as speculoos around Belgium but “Biscoff” stateside, Delta Air Lines started giving the cookies out on flights in the 1980s, and today gives out 80 million of them a year. A fun development is that Europeans in Belgium, France and the Netherlands are mad because Lotus Bakeries decided to rename speculoos to Biscoff on the continent as well, but that’s a separate story. Fliers are ravenous for them: when United dropped the cookies from a flight last year, people freaked out, and now they’re back, and when American reduced the serving from two to one, they quickly mumbled something about a “temporary supply chain solution” and then indicated they’d be back as pairs soon.
Prices from ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft are reportedly soaring as they face a shortfall of drivers willing to work gig jobs amid an otherwise bustling economic recovery. Despite offering cash bonuses on signing and mulling other perks for drivers, the key issues of the gig economy aren’t going away any time soon, nor is the very grind of driving for one of the two apps. As a result, prices are up, and by a lot: according to Gridwise, Uber has raised prices by 79 percent since the second quarter of 2019. According to their earnings report in May, Uber claimed 3.5 million active drivers in the first quarter, down 22 percent year-over-year.
Concrete is responsible for 6 percent of global emissions, something like 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. If concrete was a country, it’d be the fourth-biggest emitter on the planet, and also presumably an incredibly uncomfortable place to visit and live. Over the past 12 months, startups that want to produce tech to make low-carbon cement have raised $100 million in venture funding, and large cement makers — Switzerland’s Holcim and Germany’s HeidelbergCement — are also working on the issue. About 30 percent of the emissions come from heating the kiln, while the other 70 percent come from the very chemical process of heating limestone and making it into clinker, which releases a bunch of CO2. That latter bit is the really tough one, as when 10 tonnes of cement emits 6 tonnes of carbon dioxide, most of that’s just baked into the chemical math.
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