Numlock News: March 25, 2022 • Tyrannosaurus Rex, Hacker, Space Helicopter
By Walt Hickey
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A Tyrannosaurus rex that had gone missing has been located. In October of 2020, an unknown individual bought Stan, a T. rex skeleton, at auction for $31.8 million, an incredibly comprehensive 39-foot specimen hauled out of South Dakota’s Black Hills in the 1990s and forced to go to auction over a dispute over an estate. Since then, we’ve seen neither hide nor scale of Stan, despite lots of people attempting to track down the whereabouts of the dinosaur. Earlier this year, though, an investigation tracked down a U.S. Census record of a 5.6-ton shipment worth $31,847,500 that was exported from New York to the United Arab Emirates last May. After following up on it, Stan has been located: The fossil will be the centerpiece of the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi, a forthcoming facility.
The average price of a new car in the United States was $46,085 in February, up $5,000 from a year ago. The Consumer Price Index has new vehicle prices up 12.4 percent in the past year, and it’s worth looking at where that price increase is coming from. Because yes, inputs and component price increases as well as labor and transportation costs are certainly contributing to that rise in costs, but a substantial portion of that is just markups from the auto dealers, who know that given the supply crunch, they’re really well suited to run up the price on new vehicles. In January, 82 percent of buyers paid more than sticker price for a new car, which is up from 2.8 percent in January of 2021 and 0.3 percent in January of 2020. Indeed, the average transaction price of a car in January of 2022 was $728 above sticker price, whereas in the prior two Januaries the average price was over $2,000 less than sticker price.
NASA’s Ingenuity space helicopter, which is on Mars attached to the Perseverance mission, has completed its 22nd flight, flying for 101.4 seconds, hitting an altitude of 33 feet, scouting out the best route forward for Perseverance. Over the course of the first 21 flights, Ingenuity flew 15,247 feet and had a combined flight time of almost 39 minutes. The helicopter is reportedly in great shape and its operations — initially slated for just five flights — have been extended by the space agency through September.
The U.S. Postal Service announced that it ordered 10,019 new electric delivery trucks as part of its initial $2.98 billion order of 50,000 new vehicles. That’s double the original plan, which was that 10 percent of the vehicles under the contract would be required to be battery electric, or about 5,000 of the initial order. The USPS will order up to 165,000 vehicles for north of $6 billion over the coming decade to replace its aging fleet, and given that the needs of the postal service are particularly conducive to electrified vehicles it’s been an enigma as to why they’ve committed so little of their resources to the variety of vehicle.
Since last November, the Oxxo convenience store in Mexico has been pushing ready-to-go app-connected Visa cards to its customers, and already it’s making a huge dent in getting Mexico’s unbanked access to debit tools. As of early March, the company has had 1.6 million sign-ups, which makes the convenience store one of the fastest-growing debit card companies in the country, numbers that put it in league with actual banks and more than many of the fintech companies making a play in Mexico. With 20,000 locations — now turned functionally into bank branches as well — it’s already got the enviable brick-and-mortar footprint that many companies attempting to win the Mexican market can scale up to.
Spotify said that it paid more than $1 million in music royalties to 1,040 different artists of recorded music, which is 126 percent more than the number of artists getting a million dollars a year from Spotify in 2020. Spotify’s $7 billion in total royalty payments last year made it worth 20 percent of the global recorded music revenue that year, itself up from 15 percent in 2020. The company also claimed that 238,000 songs got over a million streams. Interestingly, the number of artists truly making a killing on the platform — more than $5 million last year — is just 130.
A 16-year-old from Oxford has been accused of being the leader of a cybercrime gang called Lapsus$, and authorities said the teenager racked up $14 million from hacking. Police said they arrested seven teenagers in relation to the gang. The Lapsus$ organization breached Microsoft and Okta and boasted about it, but after a falling out with business partners the teenager’s identity was revealed by rivals. The organization and the alleged ringleader have been in the sights of researchers for over a year.
This past week in the Sunday edition of Numlock, I spoke to Jasmine Estrada, a producer of the new Marvel podcast The History of Marvel Comics: Black Panther. I worked together with Jasmine back at FiveThirtyEight, and I really love the show she’s put together here; she read over 500 comics to catalog pretty much every appearance of the character to tell the story of the history of the company and the evolution of Black Panther. As a big fan of pop culture data journalism, it was extremely up my alley. I dropped the paywall on the post, so do check it out!
The podcast can be found at SiriusXM and Apple Podcast for its initial run and then wherever you get podcasts a short time after. Jasmine can be found on Twitter and behind a few of Marvel’s other shows, including Marvel's Pull List.
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