Numlock News: July 5, 2022 • Pokémon Cards, Minions, Sunscreen
By Walt Hickey
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Minions: Rise of Gru opened to a smashing $125.2 million over the course of the holiday weekend, proving once again that there is nothing as financially bankable as “a thing people liked when they were children” combined with “waiting about 10 years so the audience has disposable income.” It’s one of the best-ever openings for an animated feature and is the best opening for a PG-rated film in the pandemic era, and makes the Despicable Me franchise the top-grossing animated series in history.
Poke Printer Go Brrrrr
Pokémon cards have been very difficult to get your hands on after a surge in interest in the collectibles, in part fueled by a pandemic-era nostalgia burst. Last year The Pokémon Company actually acknowledged the shortages and said that they are planning to seriously ramp up production, and the new data shows they’ve gone a long way toward printing their way out of this problem. Typically, they printed 1 billion to 2 billion Pokémon cards per year, a figure that they cranked up to 3.7 billion cards in 2020 and one they pushed all the way up to a staggering 9 billion Pokémon cards in 2021 alone. That means that of the 43.2 billion cards that have ever been printed, about a quarter were printed from 2020 to 2022. That’s had a counter-inflationary effect, as it’s pushed the price of bulk cards down from six cents a card in 2021 back down to a more reasonable one cent per card. Anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying that if elected I will in my first day in office hand the keys of the United States Federal Reserve System over to The Pokémon Company.
Universal Flu Vaccine
The seasonal flu shot covers multiple strains but has to be updated every year, so one longtime goal has been to develop a universal flu shot that both protects against the expected as well as unexpected strains of influenza that circulate. A new vaccine candidate — BPL-1357, developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — is now entering phase I clinical trials with up to 100 adult volunteers after successfully doing just that in animals. Mice who were given BPL-1357 survived lethal exposures to six different strains of the flu, including two types that actually weren’t even directly covered by the vaccine.
In the United States, there are just 17 types of UV filter substances that have been allowed by the FDA to be included in sunscreen, nine of which aren’t used all that often. It’s a list of allowed chemicals that hasn’t been changed in decades, and it means that American sunscreen is actually considerably worse than what can be obtained in places like Japan and Europe and the rest of the world, which have added new UV blockers to their goop to no discernible negative impact. Two contenders that have seen success in Japan and Europe include bemotrizinol and bisoctrizole, which each have a pretty strong case given their global usage and arguably superior protection.
The German government will return 1,130 cultural artifacts to Nigeria from the 1897 Benin Bronzes, a major moment for nations that were subjected to European colonialism in having works returned. The former Kingdom of Benin was looted by the British Army, and Nigeria has called for the return of the Benin Bronzes since the ‘60s. Some of the works will be returned to Nigeria but allowed to remain in Germany on loan, and Germany agreed to contribute to the fund to build a museum to house the Benin Bronzes in Benin City. The move follows a similar one from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, which earlier this year announced a plan to return most of their bronzes to Nigeria. The British Museum is the holder of about 900 pieces from the Kingdom of Benin, but is prohibited from permanently removing items from its collection per a controversial 1963 law.
The graphics card shortage, which was a leading indicator of the broader chip shortage, has finally come to an end. The benchmark price of an Nvidia RTX 3080 on eBay has fallen from $1,613 in January of 2022 all the way down to $701 as of June, which is finally on par with the $699 list price for the GPU. Part of this is attributable to the crypto crash, as the GPUs which are particularly effective at mining cryptocurrency are now no longer economically profitable to run. Still, the 56.5 percent price drop in resold RTX 3080 GPUs over the course of six months — a trend seen pretty much up and down the entire market — is welcome news for people who want to use them for normal stuff, like playing modded versions of Rome: Total War Remastered with historically accurate troop counts, a simulation not otherwise feasible without some serious hardware.
Only 35 percent of Americans sleep an average of seven to nine hours a night, which is the amount that you’re supposed to sleep. This is a historical anomaly and one with significant health implications: According to Gallup’s polling, in 1942 only 11 percent slept six hours or less per night, a figure that by 1990 was already up to 42 percent. That’s one reason that some states are starting to do some serious work to help their citizens slumber. First up is California, which will require public high schools to start at 8:30 a.m. or later, a half-hour later than the national average and which will allow teenagers to sleep more at a critical time in their development, with knock-on effects for their parents as well.
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