Numlock News: March 4, 2022 • Carnivorous Plants, Dark of the Moon, Second Life
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
An hour and 26 minutes after you get this email, four tons of space junk will smash into the far side of the moon at 5,800 miles per hour. The object — first thought to be a SpaceX rocket booster but now believed to be a 65-meter spent Chinese booster launched in 2014 — normally would have crashed back down to Earth, but sometimes the upper stages get into funkier, weird orbits that can interact with the moon, which causes issues like this. While companies and countries are very clear about where their space junk in Earth orbit is — the U.S. Space Force tracks objects up to 22,250 miles above Earth — the moon is 226,000 miles away. No official entity is tracking what goes down over there, which, let’s be honest, is exactly what Michael Bay was warning about in his groundbreaking Decepticon documentary Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Move over, crabs, you’re not the only thing Nature likes to evolve constantly. Today there are about 800 known species of carnivorous plants, species of flora that kill animals and then extract nutrients from them and go on to inspire most grass-type Pokémon. Over the 140 million or more years over which we’ve had flowering plants, the adaptation of going carnivorous has emerged independently at least 12 times. Remember the advice that gardeners have that you should speak to your houseplants to help them grow? Turns out we were just a little off: What plants truly love of animals is not for us to speak to them, but to beg, to plead they never reconsider their decision to remain merely photosynthetic in appetites.
The California Supreme Court upheld a lower court order that the University of California Berkeley must freeze enrollment at 2020 levels, an order that resulted from a lawsuit launched by the University’s neighbors who oppose the prestigious university accepting new students. The university has 45,057 students, and in August a judge ruled that it had to cap enrollment at 42,237 and stop construction of new housing because of a lawsuit launched by neighbors who worry about increased traffic in their college town. Thanks to their NIMBY efforts, UC Berkeley will have to withhold acceptance letters from over 5,000 kids.
Captagon is a cheap version of speed that has been spreading across the Middle East, manufactured by criminal and terrorist-aligned organizations in war-torn areas of Syria and smuggled out across the region, often through Beirut, which is in the grip of an economic crisis. Since the start of the year alone, over 25 million Captagon pills have been seized by authorities, the most recent of which happened on Tuesday when Saudi authorities arrested three people with 28,000 tablets. Last year, Saudi authorities seized 119 million of the amphetamine pills, which are fueling a drug problem in the country.
Second Life, the game that has been the hotbed of metaverse activity since its launch in 2003, announced that U.S. users will be on the hook for local sales tax for in-game purchases. It’s thanks to a 2018 Supreme Court decision that ruled that states and localities could charge sales tax for online items purchased even where the seller lacks a physical presence. Second Life generates $600 million in economic activity annually, and pays out $80.4 million every year to users in real-world cash owing to goods or services exchanged within the game. That’s always been subject to income taxes, but the sales tax could have a significant impact on the in-game economy.
A survey of officials in the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials found that 84 percent of them reported experiencing higher than normal snowplow operator vacancies. The survey, which had respondents from 31 state departments of transportation and 51 public works agencies, found that it’s had an impact on the level of plowing that a quarter of the municipalities have been able to do. The issue stems from difficulties finding seasonal workers in the tight labor market, and the lack of full-time employees many of the departments have.
A painting by René Magritte sold for $79.75 million at auction, a record for the artist and also the second-most valuable painting ever sold at auction in Europe, at least measured in dollars. The painting is The Empire of Light, which shows a night scene of a home in the woods under a bright clear daytime sky, and has been in the possession of the family of Magritte’s muse Anne-Marie Gillion Crowet. The piece was said to have inspired a scene in The Exorcist, and had been expected to sell for more than $60 million.
This week I had an excellent guest on the Sunday Edition: I spoke to Rachael Dottle, who wrote “The Global Glut of Clothing Is an Environmental Crisis” for Bloomberg. It’s all about how oil gets turned into clothes, and the systemic problems that causes. It’s such a great visual story; Rachael is an incredibly gifted graphics designer, and you should check the interview and the story out. Rachael can be found at Bloomberg and on Twitter.
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