Numlock News: March 26, 2021 • Marvel Comics, Octopus Dreams, Genetic Heist
By Walt Hickey
In an earth-shattering shift in the comics business, Marvel announced that moving forward Penguin Random House will be the exclusive distributor for its physical comic books and graphic novels, cutting out Diamond Comic Distributors, the company that prior to the pandemic was effectively the sole distributor for the entire comic book industry. Last year, DC made an emergency move to set up two new distributors for their work, and beginning in October, Marvel will also break away from the company that has served as the main conduit of comics since the mid-nineties. Diamond sold $213.5 million in Marvel comics and graphic novels in 2019 — about 40 percent of its business — and $155 million of DC comics.
Yesterday was the NBA trade deadline, a peculiar hour in which teams are taken apart and put back together on the fly, simultaneously with several other teams. This odd happening has been experienced by Trevor Ariza more than any other player in the NBA, having been traded 11 times in 15 years. This is far from a bad thing, as oftentimes there are players like Ariza who are traded not because they are not wanted on their current team, but rather because another team desires them or their unique skill set more. Ariza’s defensive versatility and ability to make himself open are desirable for a team that might be on the edge of a playoff bubble.
Clorox has boomed during the pandemic, and the company is trying to keep that momentum going as the health crisis begins to ebb. It has a 50 percent market share in the wipe business, and Clorox’s revenue was up 23 percent in 2020 to $7.5 billion, breaking a pattern of single-digit growth. It was a shock to the company — 70 days of inventory sold in two weeks — but they’ve worked to build out the facilities to satisfy the demand still to come. Just last week, Clorox opened up a second production line at a factory in Atlanta, increasing the volume of canisters it can put out to 1.5 million per day.
The ship’s still stuck in the Suez, and it’s the first time since MoviePass a story has so reliably filled me with glee. It’s still a big problem, according to an estimate from the inveterate oddsmakers over at Lloyd’s List. With a rough calculation factoring in a daily $5.1 billion in westbound and $4.5 billion in eastbound traffic though the Suez Canal a day, this is approximately a $9.6 billion per day screw up. Lloyd’s estimated 165 vessels are waiting to traverse the canal, while Bloomberg puts it closer to 185. I would never want to be the one setting $6.7 million on fire every minute, but my god, it’s cozy in the warm glow of this fire.
Ecologists are attempting to solve a 35 million-year-old heist, a horizontal genetic transfer that has led to whiteflies enjoying a resistance to pesticides years later. According to a new study published in Cell, researchers have found evidence that at some point an ancestor of today’s whiteflies began to enjoy a gene that protected them from phenolic glycosides, a common defensive chemical generated by plants to stymie the insects that feed on them. How they got the gene is what’s particularly interesting: the authors think the insect actually got it from the plant they fed off of, ferried by a microbe. The reasoning is that the gene is only in one tiny family of whiteflies, and no other insect has anything remotely like it, while it is common in many plant species.
New research from Boston Consulting Group and Blue Horizon projects that the alternative protein market — that is, the imitation beef, chicken and fish that has gradually made its way to market in the past several years, often derived from plants or in lab conditions — will hit $290 billion by 2035, accounting for 11 percent of all protein products sold. In the best-case-scenario for the alternative meat products, that could reach 22 percent. Right now, they tend to be niche and also a little pricier than proper meat, but the inflection point will come sooner than you think: products based on soy and peas could hit price parity by 2023, while animal cell proteins could get there by 2032.
A new study finds that octopuses also have alternating periods of quiet and active sleep, not unlike mammals. According to the new research, the octopuses have periods of quiet sleet when they’re pale and still, and then periods of active sleep when their skins darken and their bodies contract, with the cycle repeating every 30 to 40 minutes. This opens up a number of intriguing if disconcerting possibilities, such as: Did that octopus that picked the World Cup teams in 2010 have stress dreams about it? Do octopuses have nightmares? More specifically, do octopuses also have nightmares that they forgot to ever attend a class they signed up for even though they, like me, are not in college? Could I film a reboot of Inception called Incephalapod and, if so, would the zero gravity sequences not really appeal to an audience that functions predominately in the weightlessness of the seas? Do they dream of flying, and if so, how do we stop that? They’re freaky enough without the concept of flight.
This week in the Sunday edition, I spoke to Ellie Shechet who wrote “Firefly Tourism Has a Surprising Dark Side” for Popular Science. We spoke about tourism, how the science of fireflies is very much an ongoing area of research and how to cover ecology in an era when climate change is one of the main stories of the natural world. Ellie can be found at her website, on Twitter, and several times a week at Popular Science.
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