Numlock News: July 31, 2023 • Voyager 2, Edmonton Elks, Backgammon
By Walt Hickey
New data out of Las Vegas found that the city’s sportsbooks were absolutely hosed when the Las Vegas Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup, as a bunch of homers pulling for the team to go all the way meant that the sportsbooks lost $6.6 million on hockey wagers for the month of June. All told, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reported that people in Nevada wagered $323 million on hockey in the month of June, favoring the local team over the Florida Panthers.
Fresh off a massive opening weekend and thriving on excellent word of mouth, both Barbie and Oppenheimer have continued to light up the box office around the world. Barbie is a bona fide phenomenon, making $93 million domestically and falling a mere 43 percent week over week, an excellent hold that has now racked up $774.5 million globally. In a thrilling twist for Hollywood, the movie has actually built up a head of steam in China, where it’s made $25 million, a significant acceleration after an $8.2 million opening, as the number of Barbie showings there jumped from 9,673 on July 21 to 36,000 on July 27, with its feminist message drawing in intrigued crowds. Oppenheimer is no slouch either, with a global gross up to $400.4 million, a huge total after the largest second weekend ever for an R-rated film.
A number of lawsuits in the U.S. are probing what precisely innocent bystanders are owed when law enforcement destroys their property in pursuit of a suspect or fugitive. One case in California relates to NoHo Printing and Graphics, which was the unwitting site of a standoff between an LAPD SWAT team and a fugitive that barricaded himself in the store. After a 13-hour standoff where the SWAT team fired dozens of tear gas canisters in, the target escaped but the print shop was absolutely destroyed. The city’s refused to pay $60,000 in expenses, so they’re suing. Insurance policies often have disclaimers saying they don’t cover damage caused by the government, and the government can claim broad “police powers.” It’s far from the only such situation: One Colorado family’s $580,000 home was destroyed by police pursuing a shoplifter, receiving $5,000 for their troubles, and a Texan’s home was driven through by a SWAT BearCat armored vehicle in an attempt to pursue a fleeing kidnapper. In that last case, a jury finally awarded the septuagenarian owner $59,656.59.
Lost In Space
The Voyager 2 spacecraft’s antenna changed 2 degrees after a routine sequence of commands, which unfortunately means that the 1970s spacecraft — which is hurtling away from us about 19.9 billion kilometers away from Earth — is out of communications with NASA. The good news is that this appears to be a communications pause, and it’s hardly the first one: Voyager resets its orientation several times per year to point the antenna back to Earth, and the next reset is on October 15, which if all goes well will mean Voyager was out of comms for 79 days. Its counterpart Voyager 1, which is 24 billion kilometers away, continues to operate as normal.
The Edmonton Elks, the Canadian Football League team, have set a new record for losing-est team at home, dropping a game to the British Columbia Lions 27-0 on Saturday and extending their home losing streak to 21 consecutive losses. That is the longest run of home losses in the history of sports in North America, with the last home win in Edmonton coming on October 12, 2019. The previous record for most consecutive losses at home was the St. Louis Browns, a Major League Baseball team that lost 20 consecutive home games in 1953, an indignity so irrevocable that the following year they left town and changed their name to the Baltimore Orioles.
Jason Belmonte, an enormously successful Australian bowler with 15 PBA majors, has revolutionized the sport by using two hands to toss the ball. While most people give up bowling with two hands on the bowling ball after childhood, Belmonte has shown it can also lead to some fascinating spin work at the professional level. It is already a revolution; the Professional Bowling Association’s commissioner said 40 percent of entrants in youth tournaments are bowling two-handed, and at the PBA Juniors competition last year nine out of the 10 boys who made the finals bowled that way. TV ratings for the sport are up 14 percent this year.
A powerful robot is up for sale: the eXtreme Gammon artificial intelligence program, or XG, which is the best backgammon player in the world, and the best system to evaluate how well someone played a game of backgammon. First released in 2009, it’s a critical tool of analysis and research for the pro backgammon crowd, and after 35 years in the backgammon software development space, the architect of the program wants to cash out. He’s looking for $1 million to $2 million for the IP, and while that may sound high, the program does retail for $60 and has licensing deals with several commercial websites.
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