Numlock News: March 22, 2023 • Asteroid Strike, Sabotage, BookTok
By Walt Hickey
The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank has prompted a run on Silicon Valley Bank swag on secondary markets, bound for collectors of the ephemera left behind by entities that imploded, whether it’s an FTX hat or a MoviePass sweatshirt or a Lehmen Bros gym bag. On Poshmark you can score a Silicon Valley Bank Christmas swater for $35 and on eBay you can get an SVB backpack for $340. Collectors of the real swag must act fast, as soon the market will be flooded by new merch created by enterprising merchants ripping off the logos of the doomed company for a class of irony-poisoned yuppies to buy up.
A number of films made on practically no budget whatsoever have outperformed their budgets in the topsy-turvy box office world we’ve lived in since the pandemic, and it’s made it possible for many aspiring filmmakers to break into the industry and get higher budgets. While even small Hollywood movies cost in the millions of dollars to produce, Jane Schoenbrun made lo-fi horror movie We’re All Going to the World’s Fair for peanuts and Emma Seligman made Shiva Baby for roughly $200,000, both of which were distributed by a company called Utopia, which is touted as “AAA24,” a charming pun on AAA minor league baseball and A24, the beloved Oscar-winning independent. The success of those debuts saw Schoenbrun score a $6 million budget for sophomore feature I Saw The TV Glow and Seligman get $10 million to make Bottoms.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a serious blow for the country’s cultural output, with the number of book titles published in Ukraine down to 9,000 last year from 17,000 the year prior. The printing industry in Ukraine is mostly based out of Kharkiv, which was the site of some of the toughest fighting of the whole war, and consequently the total number of books printed in Ukraine is down from 25.7 million in 2021 to 9.2 million books in 2022. That said, foreign publishers have begun to pay attention given the spotlight on the country, with the number of rights sales for Ukrainian books up from 120 in 2021 to 230 in 2022.
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On September 26 of last year, the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines connecting Russia and Europe exploded. The identity of the perpetrator — given that Russian gas imports to Europe are a pain point in the war in Ukraine, it’s not especially that the simultaneous destruction of undersea pipelines is, like, a coincidence — is of interest to a lot of people watching the events, but of particular interest to the insurance industry, which has some skin in the game here. If it’s an act of war, then insurers can claim that war is not covered under the pipeline owners’ insurance, and as a result the insurers are off the hook on footing the bill. While Gazprom owns 51 percent of Nord Stream 1, four Western European energy companies own the other 49 percent, so E.ON, Wintershall Dea, Engie and Gasunie would really like this to not be considered a wartime act of sabotage or terrorism or whether whatever insurance they have covers it. Right now the current case law is out of New Jersey, where a Superior Court ruled that a Russian cyberattack on pharmaceutical giant Merck was not technically an act of war, and as a result their insurer Ace American was indeed responsible for the $1.4 billion loss Merck sustained.
The American book industry was generally pretty stable, growing at a 3 percent to 4 percent rate. Then the pandemic turbocharged the book business, which saw 21 percent growth from 2019 to 2021. Now, things have cooled off a little bit, with the industry shrinking 1 percent in the first three months of 2023. There is an exception, however: BookTok, or the books that blow up on social media platform TikTok. Among authors whose books have been BookTok darlings, sales are up 43 percent over the 2022 sales levels.
The Day After Tomorrow
The IPCC report out of the United Nations found that the current use of fossil fuels are pushing the world to a dangerous level of warming, and soon. According to the report, there’s an 83 percent likelihood of hitting a dangerous and irreversible level of warming by 2 degrees Celsius if all the currently planned fossil fuel infrastructure is indeed built. It also points to the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies as a really direct and effective way at cutting emissions. If fossil fuel subsidies are removed, the effect would be a 1 to 4 percent decline in carbon dioxide emissions and a 10 percent decline in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
The current means of estimating the frequency of large asteroid collisions with Earth — which is accomplished by studying craters on the moon, and the size of asteroids near Earth — generally estimates that an asteroid or comet over 1 kilometer in size hits Earth once every 600,000 to 700,000 years. A new study argues that it’s actually likely more common than that; in the past million years, it estimates that four different kilometer-sized objects hit Earth’s continents, and since land is only a third of the surface of the Earth, we’re actually talking up to a dozen or so hitting the Earth in the past million years.
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