Numlock News: July 25, 2022 • Pufferfish, Robocalls, Nope
By Walt Hickey
Jordan Peele’s Nope made $44 million domestically, the biggest opening weekend for an original studio screenplay since Peele’s previous film, Us, beating out Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The movie made about 34 percent of its gross in Imax theaters, and the audience skewed 70 percent aged 18 to 34. The audience for the movie also was considerably more ethnically diverse than most Hollywood fare, with 35 percent of opening weekend ticket buyers white, 33 percent Black, 20 percent Latino and 8 percent Asian. Nope was a bit pricier to make compared to Peele’s previous films, with a budget of $68 million.
Since 2006, the amount of money allocated by the National Institute of Health for Alzheimer’s research specifically focusing on amyloid and oligomers rose from pretty much zero to $287 million as of 2021, thanks in large part to an influential paper that identified a type of oligomer called Aβ*56 in brain tissue as the main cause of the illness. Indeed, the NIH spent $1.6 billion on projects mentioning amyloids in general in the past fiscal year, accounting for half of its Alzheimer’s spending, often to the detriment of researchers investigating other potential causes. Now, a months-long investigation and two neuroscientists argue that hundreds of images in the seminal Aβ*56 studies were tampered with, combining several photos into composite images to better fit the desired hypothesis. The fear is that, if indeed the images were messed with, 16 years of Alzheimer’s research may have been directed down a dead end.
Of any artist who charted on Spotify in 2020 and 2021, there were 332 that had never before charted on the streaming service. Of those 332 newcomers, fully 25 percent of them came from TikTok, which has become a new path into the music business for the right kind of song. One irony is that it’s not exactly TikTok where the artists make their money — it’s not really a place where songs can become commercially successful in and of themselves — but rather it’s a chance for people to get discovered and then get rich on other platforms. Indeed, an analysis of 1,000 TikTok songs with at least 100,000 TikTok posts found that only 125 of them were from artists that were not already commercially successful.
On June 15, the U.S. Army launched an Airbus Zephyr drone over Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, an unmanned aircraft powered by solar panels with energy storage capacity with a wingspan of 82 feet and a weight of only around 165 pounds. Well, it hasn’t come down yet; on Thursday the Army announced that it has been flying for 36 days, wiping out the previous 26-day record, and it as yet has not been reported that it’s landed. The Army is keeping it up there until weather conditions are ideal to bring it down. The military hope for the aircraft is in high-altitude surveillance and reconnaissance, assuming they can ever actually get it down.
The secondary market for Air Jordans, Nike Dunks and Air Force 1s is crashing down to earth, with some limited-edition shoes selling for 30 percent less than they did several months ago. The sneaker resale market, which as of last year was racking up $6 billion in annual sales, has now hit a moment where supply exceeds demand. It’s bad out there: Nike Dunk Low Retro White Blacks that resold for $290 in February are now selling for under $200, and the Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “Patent Bred,” which is the closest you’re going to get to a blue-chip investment these days, is now selling for $230, down from $300 in February. The sell-off comes as investors in sneakers seek to unload their wares, potentially related to a tighter economic landscape in general. The average transactions at StockX, the sneaker resale marketplace, were down 20 percent in June.
The FCC ordered phone companies to stop carrying call traffic from robocallers that are pulling scam auto warranties. On one hand, it’s a significant acknowledgment that the severity of robocalls has gotten out of hand and is an attempt to intervene; on the other hand, it’s basically like yelling at the road I-95 and asking the strip of asphalt to stop people from speeding. The auto warranty scammers are responsible for 8 billion unlawful prerecorded calls since 2018, and the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau and the Ohio Attorney General — which isn’t toothless — are investigating. According to YouMail, on a daily basis robocall traffic is up 13.4 percent month over month in June compared to May.
Found in pufferfish, tetrodotoxin is a chemical that is incredibly toxic to animals including humans, blocking critical channels in nerve cells and leading to paralysis and death. It’s also a learning tool in the bioscience world and has been the subject of research in potential utility as a pain reliever. The method to recreate tetrodotoxin in a laboratory was developed in 1972, and versions of it require 25 to 67 steps and have yields of just 1 percent. A new method described in the journal Science brings the number of steps to synthesize tetrodotoxin down to 22 steps, and cranks the yield up to 11 percent, which now means it’s viable to manufacture and can potentially see medical applications.
Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.
The best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends.