Numlock News: March 29, 2023 • Venus, Ridiculousness, One Hits
By Walt Hickey
Planetary scientists are furious at a NASA decision to yank funding away from a mission to Venus that had been slated for 2028 in order to redirect that money toward the Psyche mission, which missed its launch date last year and will endeavor to visit a metal asteroid. The VERITAS mission has been to delayed to a launch no earlier than 2031, but the scientists slated to work on it are describing it as a soft cancellation as the money intended to pay for engineering has been entirely wiped out despite the engineering efforts being otherwise on time and on budget. The scientists had hoped to get $20 million per year — a tenth of the original 2024 budgeting — to tide them over and maintain essential personnel for the mission, but their funding was slashed to $1.5 million a year.
The level of uncollected trash in Paris — the result of a municipal worker strike protesting proposals to increase the retirement age — has begun to subside as the CGT union’s public services branch suspends the strike. The idea, per the union, is to discuss plans with other worker unions toward a larger strike, and also to deal with a shortage of strikers. Prior to the labor actions, on March 6, there were 1,800 metric tons of uncollected trash on Parisian sidewalks, a level that rose to 10,000 metric tons of trash by March 25. On Sunday, that fell to 7,828 tons, and as of Tuesday there were 7,000 metric tons of trash. As a proxy for strike intensity, it shows things might be beginning to slow as each side plans their next move.
NFL owners voted to approve a proposal set forward by the Philadelphia Eagles to allow players to wear the number 0 on their uniforms, in what onlookers in Dallas, Washington and New York are describing as the first good thing the Philadelphia Eagles have ever been responsible for. Long the domain of mascots and generic sample uniforms up for sale, players now can claim the youngest of the natural numbers, provided they are not a defensive or offensive lineman, two positions notorious for rejecting non-positive integers from official league play.
Fans of what once was the television network MTV have long marveled at the music television station’s recent transition into simply serving as a network that plays the clip show Ridiculousness on a nearly constant rotation. However, it turns out that’s pretty much exactly what large factions of cable and satellite television viewers enjoy, according to a new survey. When asked whether or not they would prefer if television channel programming schedules were centered around reruns of just one or a few popular titles, 54 percent of adults who watch linear television said that they would indeed prefer that.
One-hit wonders — artists who chart one time and never really make it back to the top 40 — have existed at a relatively constant rate throughout the past two decades. From 2002 to 2019, 54 percent of acts who got onto the top 40 never got a second hit on the charts. There was some variation, but over that period it never got more than 61 percent or less than 39 percent of artists who never made it back. Obviously it’s not fair to judge a one-hit wonder from artists who released music over the past year or two, but there is evidence that 2020 saw an above-average number of artists who made it once to the top 40 and never again. That year, 70 percent of artists who charted haven’t since returned. It’s unclear if over time that will decrease enough to be in line with previous years, but it’s still elevated, and that’s escalating worries that algorithmic streaming recommendations and the impact of virality on apps like TikTok are reducing artist staying power.
On April 1, Twitter will fully phase out its longstanding verification system, and the only users with blue checkmarks next to their usernames will be the ones paying for the Twitter Blue service. A hope of the site’s management was that the roughly 420,000 existing verified users would be so devastated to lose the badge that identified them as being who they indeed said they were that those users would take out their wallets and pay for Twitter Blue, but there is evidence that’s not the case at all. There are about 220,132 paying Twitter Blue subscribers right now, according to a researcher tracking the system, and so far only 6,482 of them are people who were legacy verified users, good for a 1.5 percent conversion rate. This may present a business issue for the new management, which has bet quite a bit on user enthusiasm to pay a subscription for the vanity pixels.
There’s an ongoing dispute over whether it’s just as good to wash clothes in cold water in a washing machine as it is to wash them in warm or hot water. The physics of it are indisputable: Hotter water is better at dissolving dirt than colder water, but the washing machines and detergent these days are sufficiently sophisticated that some argue cold water does just as well. According to P&G, which makes Tide, cold water is fine, and in fact cleaning clothes in cold water could save a household $150 a year in energy costs. Washing machines warm water to 60 degrees Fahrenheit for cold cycles, 100 degrees for warm cycles, and 122 degrees for hot cycles. Others call BS on claims that cold water is just as good; they allege that manufacturers are allowed to use water as warm as 85 degrees Fahrenheit and still define it as a cold-water wash based on ASTM International standards, which is a far cry from the “cold water” that would emerge from taps in many parts of the country.
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