Numlock News: June 24, 2022 • Reef Fish, Heat Pumps, Haircuts
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
Axie Infinity is a crypto system structured as a game, where players have digital monsters and get cryptocurrency tokens for doing in-game labor. This has led to a system where richer players get poor players to do the labor for them in exchange for a cut, some sort of pyramidal organization system where everybody gets paid and the money definitely never runs out. By February of 2022, Axie hit $4 billion in sales and had about 1.5 million daily active users as recently as March, down from the high of 2.7 million last year. Oh, then at the end of the month hackers stole $620 million in crypto, withdrawals were halted, and the plan is to reopen around the end of this month. Seems like a fun game!
While exhibitors and studios in the United States have been haggling over the theatrical release exclusive window for movies in the pandemic era — basically, how long a movie gets to be in theaters exclusively before the producer can throw it up on their streaming service — other countries have weirder, more complicated structures that have some studios wondering if it’s even worth it to put a movie in theaters anyway. In France, for instance, the government has a strict four-month exclusive theatrical window, at which point films have a strict pay-TV window, meaning that if Disney puts a movie in cinemas it can’t put the movie on Disney+ for another 17 months. The French counter that, hey, you can shorten the window easily by investing more euros in French films, like Netflix did with their $45 million a year on French indies, or the $208 million a year Canal+ invests in French films.
Red Fish, Blue Fish, Hideous Fish, Endangered Fish
A new study looked at how the aesthetics of fish related to how much their conservation needs were being met, by showing 481 photos of reef fish to 13,000 people and then using their aesthetic rating responses to generate attractiveness scores for 2,417 common reef fish species. They found that the fish considered most appealing to people — colorful, round, bright fish — were less ecologically distinct, and more likely to be species of least concern when it comes to conservation. Meanwhile, the fish that people tended to think were ugly were more evolutionarily distinct, and were more likely to be threatened species.
Track and Field
The governing body behind track and field wants to get the sport out to more Americans between Olympic games. One survey found that the sport ranked eighth among sports that people in the U.S. are interested in, with 37 percent expressing some degree of interest in the people who run fast, throw things far or throw themselves far. Some college meets draw crowds — 49,315 attended the Texas Relays this year — while others can’t fill the stands. On paper, the sport should be thriving: 50 million people are runners, and usually 1.5 million students in a given year are competing in track or cross country. While the Olympics are a bonanza — 2 million to 3 million watched the trials — domestic events rarely get north of a million viewers. NBC, which is already gearing up for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, may be trying to change that, and will air 12.5 hours of the world championships this July, seven hours in prime time.
Shave And A Haircut, Two-Point Twelve Bits
The price of a haircut in the United States in May was up 6.2 percent year over year, the single largest annual increase since 1982. It’s one of the more acute manifestations of inflation to be sure, with the costs of labor and the prices of essential hair care components increasing, but mostly I want to know what happened in 1982. Did Aqua Net Hairspray singlehandedly drive up the price of a hairdo that quickly? Were banana clips truly that much of a cost pressure? Did the Bureau of Labor Statistics have to figure out a new categorization system after the development of Dippity Do? Were there supply chain difficulties with crimping irons? The 80s are a mystery.
Five years ago, Latin music accounted for about 2.56 percent of the music market share, a figure that rose 111 percent to hit 5.39 percent marketshare as of last year. Its rise is evident across the industry: The music festival Coachella doubled the number of Latin music acts in its 2022 roster over 2020, and so many Latin and reggaeton music festivals are cropping up to capitalize on the genre’s ascendence that some onlookers are actually worried there’s a glut of the festivals and that due to market saturation not all of them will actually work. Factor in artist tours — in 2021 Latin music was nine of the top 40 tours and grossed $196 million from 159 shows — and the competition for concertgoers is getting stiff.
In the 1990s, the New York City Housing Authority realized they could save a bundle on energy costs by upgrading refrigerators across the whole system, which serves 1 out of every 16 New Yorkers. Since they were such a colossal customer in their own right, they actually held a little bake-off for manufacturers, trying to get apartment-sized high-efficiency fridge units with the winner getting to sell them 20,000 fridges a year. At the end of the day, Maytag’s new Magic Chef model won, and NYCHA bought 150,000 from 1995 to 2003 and wound up saving a ton of money on electricity. Now, NYCHA wants to use that market power again, this time in a challenge to design a heat pump — and electrical-powered device that cools in the summer and heats in the winter — that can replace the window AC unit and vastly improve on efficiency without the need for refrigerants or fossil fuels. The agency will commit to buying up 24,000 units of whatever wins.
This week in the Sunday edition I spoke to Ryan Broderick, who wrote “Twitter invented a Clippy for cyberbullying” for his newsletter Garbage Day. Ryan’s newsletter is my favorite read. It’s a delightful dive into the daily morass of internet culture, memes, trends and more. We spoke about the Twitter study, the current state of internet discourse, and furries. Ryan can be found at Garbage Day, his podcast the Content Mines and Twitter. Check out the interview; it’s so fun I unlocked it.
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